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I 



r 



7) 






) 







THE 



MYSTERY OF THE 



c; 



OCEAN STAR" 



A COLLECTION OF MARITIME SKETCHES 



BY 



W. CLARK EUSSELL 

AUTHOR OF "THE WIUECK OF THB ' 0B08VBN0R/ ^* ETC. 



NEW YORK 
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 

1888 



Authorized Edition. 






i 



CONTENTS. 



The Mystebt of thk "Ocean Star" ... 

The Extbaobdinary Adventure of a CiuiiF M 

Thirst 1 an Ocean Incident 

Pictures at Sea ... 

Foul of a Waterspout 

Hazardous Voyages 

Forecastle Traits 

The Old Sea Dog 

Mabine Punishments ... 

Calms and Seas ... 

'Longshoreman's Yarns 

The British Sailor 

Lifeboats and their Crews 

Weevil's Lecture 

Old Ships 

Seaside Effects ... 

An Ocean Mystery 

The Old Naval Sea-Song.. 

An Old Shipwright ... 

Can these Dry Bones live? 

"That there Little Tommy" 

A Luminous Sailor 

Spanish Armada 



\TE 



rAQR 

1 

21 
43 
59 



75 



84 
94 
105 
115 
124 
137 
156 
165 
174 
187 
200 
219 
227 
247 
258 
269 
281 
291 



195341 






W\ 



^ 



THE MYSTERY OF THE 

« OCEAN STARr 

On the 22nd of August in the year 1877, a steamer 
named the Gmde, of about twelve hundred tons burden, 
was in latitude 12° North and in longitude 81^ West. 
The weather, during the last twenty-four hours, had 
been curious. The north-east trade wind had two days 
earlier fined down into a faint draught, and then for a 
spell all the breeze that the vessel found she made for 
herself. There was a long swell from the westward, 
which came along in slopes of liquid violet, so* polished 
that the glory of the sunshine slipped from one deeply 
dark-blue brow to another, as though indeed it were a 
substantial gushing of fiery gold sliding over the heads 
of rolling hills of glass. The oddness of the weather 
lay in peculiar appearances of snow-white vapour low 
down upon the sea. The atmosphere was brilliantly 
clear, the sky a hard pale blue, brightening into the 
needle-like scintillations of new tin as it swept out of 
a bald brassy dye round about the sun to the sheer 
white dazzle of the luminary; and where the line of 
the horizon was visible the rim of the waving circle was 
as sharp and defined as tinted crystal against the airy 
softness of the heavens. Nevertheless these fog-banks 
hung about the deep in many directions, some curved 
like great pinions, some in rolls, low-lying, like to the 



2 TEE MYSTERY OF THE *' OCEAN STAB.'' 

folds of dark smoke which linger on the waters of the 
English Channel in the hush of a summer's day, some 
like vast sheets of satin shot with the lustrous colourings 
you notice in cobwebs or the inside of oyster- shells. 
Whenever the steamer swept into one of them her 
quarter-deck, and the white boats amidships, and the 
glass of her skylights and all the brass- work about her 
abaft her funnel, would be in splendour, whilst forward she 
had disappeared as completely as if she had been sawn 
in twain. Then perhaps for the space of twenty minutes 
she would be in a sort of eclipse, a deeper silence upon 
the white air as though the steam-like smother held a 
stillness of its own, her forecastle scarce visible from 
the bridge, the smoke from her funnel following like a 
shadow of thunder-cloud in the glistening void; and 
regularly as she drove into these spacious, seemingly 
motionless, bodies the blasts of her steam-horn fled 
ahead like yells startled out of her sentience by terror 
of the swift transformations of the splendour of the 
tropical day into the moonlike blindness of the fog. 
For certainly it was impossible to know but that in one 
or another of the banks a ship lay stagnated; and, 
though the engines were never slowed, the ears upon 
the bridge were held strained until the steamer had 
leaped on a sudden out of the white twilight into the 
golden day again. 

It was about eleven o'clock in the forenoon; the 
whole length of the Guide had barely steamed out clear 
from one of the largest of the low clouds when the chief 
officer sighted a sail four points on the port bow. She 
lay some five miles distant, in a wide and shining 
channel betwixt two great bodies of vapour, and re- 
sembled a piece of ivory-work in the searching light. 
The mate directed the captain's attention to her. 



TEi: MYSTEBT OF THE ''OCEAN STAR.'* 8 

"Yes, sir; and I hope if there are others about 
they'll be as easy to see." He brought a glass from the 
obart-house and levelled it. He worked away for some 
time without speaking, and then handing the telescope 
to the chief mate, he said, ''Mr. Williams, there's 
Bomething wrong with that vessel." 

Indeed, it scarcely needed a sailor's eye to suspect 
something amiss. She was a small barque, apparently 
between three hundred and fifty and four hundred tons ; 
she had a main skysail mast, and all her spars were 
aloft and everthing right in that way ; but the appear- 
ance of her canvas suggested disorder and confusion. 
Halliards fore and aft seemed to have been let go on a 
sudden, and nothing else done. Upper topsail, top- 
gallant —in short, all yards which travelled were down, 
but no sail was clewed up. The foresail, the lower top- 
sails^ mainsail, and spanker were set ; but staysails and 
jibs, most of them, lay half up and down the stays they 
belonged to ; the yards were braced forward on the star- 
board tack. These features the glass rendered easily 
distinguishable. 

"Now, what on earth can that muddle signify?" 
exclaimed the captain, with his face full of curiosity. 
" You'd imagine there was a heavy squall coming down 
upon her, that her skipper had sung out to let go 
everything, and that the crew, after doing so, had 
gone to dinner. See anything like a colour flying, 
Mr. WiUiams ? " 

The mate looked and answered, " No. Appears to me 
like a mutiny, sir," he continued. " Or if it isn't that, 
then it'll be sickness. Hold chock-a-block with green 
coffee, perhaps, and the fo'ksle full of fever. Or suppose 
you reckon it's blindness, sir? I've heard of such a 
thing as a whole ship's company losing their sight." 



4 THE MYSTERY OF THE ''OCEAN START 

'*Well, let's go and have a look at her," said the 
captain. "No use speculating on objects at sea. If 
there'd been a little more shifting of courses there'd be 
fewer marine wonders, I allow." He spoke to the helms- 
man, and the steamer's head was put for the barque. 

She was rolling to the run of the swell, and the 
swinging of the canvas flung a hurry of shadowing over 
her. The quiet vaporous shapes on either hand, like 
islands clad in' mist, with the wide dark-blue channel 
between them upon which the fabric, made dainty by 
distance, swayed the silver buttons of her trucks in a 
delicate limning, as you might have thought, of the 
azure canvas above, made the picture a fine one. The 
heave of the water was without a wrinkle, and the eye 
sought the whole circumference of the horizon in vain 
for the blurr of a catspaw. As she was approached, 
points which distance had subdued or hidden stole out 
upon the naked sight; such as that she was painted 
green, with a narrow white band running the length of 
her, that she had a white figure-head and an elliptical 
stem, after the mould of the Aberdeen clippers; that 
she was metalled high with new sheathing, which, to 
each sway of the swell, flashed out a wet coppery light 
that was like the momentary glance of a beam of the 
setting sun upon the translucency under the bends. 

** There's nothing wanting in her that I can see," 
said the captain, talking with his eye at the glass. 
" Masthead those yards and trim them, and she'd be as 
pretty a little ship as ever I recollect seeing. What can 
be her people's object in leaving her in that condition ? 
Certainly not a rope's been touched since I've been look- 
ing at her," he continued, inspecting her ; then handing 
the glass to the mate, he said, " Isn't there smoke coming 
out of her galley chimney ? My sight's not what it was." 



THE MYSTERY OF THE ''OCEAN STAR:** 5 

Mr. Williams peered and said, " Yes, that's smoke, 
right enough. If her galley fire's alight she's not 
deserted. Yet I don't see the least sign of any living 
being aboard either. Never so much as a man's head, 
sir. Very odd, to be sure." 

^' She seems to have all her boats," said the captain. 

" I can't be certain," answered the mate. '* Looks to 
me as if her starboard davits were empty; but her 
spanker's in the road of my sight." 

They fell silent, the steamer's engines were slowed, 
and she floated leisurely down upon the barque, and 
when within easy hail she was stopped. The derelict, if 
such she were, was a very visible object now. Her wheel, 
standing nakedly, revolved to right or left with the sway- 
ing of the rudder to the blows of the swell. An element 
of solemnity was imparted to the flapping noises of the 
canvas and the grinding and creaking sounds breaking 
from the hull and structure aloft by the striking of a 
bell at intervals suflSciently measured to render the 
notes funereal in their way. All hands aboard the 
steamer leaned over the rail gazing at the barque, and 
you marked the working of salt superstitious instincts 
in more than one mahogany countenance as the vibra- 
tory chime of the hidden bell aboard the tenantless 
vessel drove thinly musical through the still atmosphere. 

*' It'll be the rolling that keeps that bell going," 
said the captain ; ** but it's a sound to make a man 
feel clammy." He put both hands, hollowed, to his 
mouth, and roared out, in a hurricane note, ** Barque 
ahoy ! " ' 

There was no response. Every eye searched each 
fathom of the vessel's length, but nothing stirred save 
the shadows. That which filled everybody with wonder 
was that there should be smoke filtering from the galley 



6 THE MY8TEBY OF THE ''OCEAN STAB.** 

chimney, proving the galley fire to be alight, and yet 
nobody to show himself. 

*'If she's abandoned, sir," said the mate, "her 
people can't have been long gone ; yonder smoke proves 
that. They ought to be within sight " (he sent a long 
look around), " unless," he added, " they're buried in 
one of those banks." 

By this time the steamer had insensibly glided for- 
wards so as to open the starboard side of the barque, 
and it was then seen, as the mate had said, that one of 
her boats was gone ; the davits were slued out and the 
falls overhauled to the water's edge with the blocks 
dipping to the roll of the vessel. Her name was also 
visible, written in bold letters on her stern. Ocean Star. 

** Better go aboard and see what's the matter, Mr. 
Williams," said the captain. " Pity some wind don't 
come along and blow those clouds away. The crew 
may be hidden in one of them, as you say; but it's an 
unintelligible job, if ever there was one. Haul taut on 
your nerve-tackles, sir, for there may be an ugly sight 
to greet ye." 

A boat was got over, and four men rowed the chief 
officer to the barque. The men tugging at the oars 
were incessantly looking past their shoulders, so con- 
founded were they by the sight of the smoke going 
straight up out of the galley chimney, and by the 
absence of life, which the spectacle of the smoke accen- 
tuated to their dull unlettered understandings ; as if in 
truth the vessel were manned by viewless mariners who 
watched their approach, phantom-like, from the bulwark 
rail. 

" In oars ! " A boat-hook cleverly caught a mizen- 
channel-plate, and in a trice Mr. "Williams, followed by 
a couple of hands, gained the deck. The captain's hint 



THE MYSTERY OF THE "^ OCEAN 8TARV 7 

had prepared the mate's mind, and he gazed about him 
for something horrible. There was nothing at all, how- 
ever, in that way to be seen. Indeed, there was no 
further confusion than ends of ropes lying about, coils 
of halliards which had been lifted off the pins and 
thrown down, and let go in a hurry and left to lie, as 
much of them as remained when the yards were down. 
She was a snug, clean vessel, decks of a good colour, 
paintwork fresh, brasswork bright, flush fore and aft, 
and the furniture — such as the binnacles, pumps, 
capstan, skylights, companions, and so forth — excellent 
in their kind. 

"Nothing wrong above-board anyhow," said the 
mate ; " if there's anything in the creeping line it'll be 
below." 

There were some cocks and hens in a coop forward 
gaping with thirst. The mate dropped the dipper into 
the scuttle-butt and flUed their trough, and the crea- 
tures drank with extraordinary demonstrations of pious 
thanksgiving in their manner of looking aloft to let the 
water drain down. There had been a pig under the 
long-boat, but he was gone. There was nothing alive 
but the cocks and hens. The mate looked about him for 
the sounding-rod, and finding it, sounded the well, and 
found the barque as free as the steamer was. He made 
the tour of the deck, followed by the men, one of whom 
smothered the tongue of the bell with some yarns, peer- 
ing eagerly as he went, never knowing but that the next 
step would bring him to a dead man in the wake of a 
mast, or concealed by a bulwark stanchion and the gear 
about it ; but the decks were as free of the dead as the 
living. He looked into the galley and found a good fire 
burning; so good that both he and the others agreed 
that it must have been made up afresh within the time 



8 TEE MYSTERY OF TEE ''OCEAN STAR." 

the Guide had first sighted the vessel, for the coals were 
spitting out gas flames, and hurned as fresh as coals do. 
There was a large saucepan boiling on the fire, and on 
lifting the lid and looking in they spied a fowl clumsily 
plucked. The mate started and stared at the others. 

" There must be men aboard," he cried ; "you want 
no better proof than this. If they made off at sight of 
us Where's their boat ? They wouldn't have had time 
to fetch the nearest of those fog-banks. No, we must 
have seen 'em. And why should they have wanted to 
make off ? What was there to frighten 'em overboard 
in the sighting of our steamer ? Depend upon it they're 
aboard — below — in hiding; but, great thunder? what 
for ? " 

" Will you search the ship ? " said one of the men. 

" Certainly." 

*' Stand by, sir; there may be some bloomin' roose in 
this business." 

"Follow or stay as you please," said the mate; "I 
have my orders." With which he walked to the com- 
panion hatch and descended the steps. The others 
followed. Mr. Williams was a stout-hearted man, 
nevertheless he entered the cabin with extreme caution, 
stepping very slowly, with his eyes starting from his 
head. The seeing nothing to account for the mystery 
of this barque's situation astonished and dismayed him 
more than had he encountered a terribly tragic solution 
of the riddle. The cabin was a pleasant, clean, sunny 
apartment, with a table amidships, lockers stuffed with 
hair on either hand, a handsome silver-plated lamp over 
the table, a few hanging shelves with books and other 
such matters. There were four small cabins abaft, 
which the mate entered, and in the sternmost one, pre- 
sumably the captain's, he found, besides chronometers. 



THE MYSTERY OF THE ''OCEAN STABr 9 

a sextant, a log-book, charts and the like, the ship's 
papers, which proclaimed the vessel to be the Ocean 
Star, of Hull, bound to Bio with a general cargo. He 
examined the log, but the last entry was dated ten days 
before. This was a circumstance to prodigiously increase 
Mr. Williams's perplexment. He inspected the other 
cabins and found them mere sleeping-places, each with 
its bunks and bedding and chest of clothes. There was 
nobody here — nothing living or dead — -though the two 
foremost cabins exhibited signs of having quite recently 
been occupied. 

The mate, accompanied by his two men, went on 
deck again, walked forward and entered the forecastle ; 
but they first looked down the scuttle and spied a light. 
" Ha ! " cried Mr. WilUams, " they're here then." 
He put his head into the hatch and sang out, " Below 
there ! " No answer. ** Below there, I say ! " His 
voice sank dead into the gloom, and no reply followed. 
He hailed a third time : ** Anybody below there ? " and 
obtaining no response, lost his patience, put his legs 
into the hatch and dropped. The light was made by 
a slush lamp swinging under a blackened beam. There 
were four hammocks stretched under the upper deck, 
and a few bunks going into the bows. You would have 
concluded that the crew had all turned in after eating ; 
for there was a mess-kid upon the deck with the remains 
of a piece of beef in it ; here and there a pannikin stood 
upon a chest, and the roving and perplexed eyes of the 
mate fastened upon a broken pipe, bits of sea-bread, 
stray shoes and boots, oilskins hanging by nails, and 
other well-known items of the furniture of Jack's ocean 
parlour. He punched the hammocks, there was nothing 
in them; he examined the bunks, they too were un- 
tenanted. 



10 THE MYSTEUr OF TEE ''OCEAN STAJR.^ 

" This beats all my goln' a-fishin' ! '* exclaimed one 
of the men. 

" Nothings wanted but a flavey o' sulphur to make me 
reckon that the Devil's got charge here," said the other. 

*'Put that light out, one of you," said the mate, and 
they returned on deck and got into their boat. 

" Well ? " said the captain, as Mr. Williams stepped 
over the side. 

" Well, sir," replied the mate, " I've thoroughly over- 
hauled her and there's no one on board. Nothing alive 
but some cocks and hens. She's the Ocean Star, of 
Hull," and here he acquainted the captain with the 
contents of the ship's papers, '* and she should be worth 
as she stands a tidy lump of money. She's sound as 
a bell, and as dry as the inside of a chimney." 

" And no hint to be found as to what's become of her 
people ? " 

** Ne'er a hint, sir, barring those empty starboard 
davits. I'd believe her crew had left her in that boat, 
only what are you to make of the galley fire being alight, 
a fowl- cooking in a saucepan on it — actually boiling as 
it might be for a man's dinner — and to complete the 
blessed wonder, sir, the forecastle slush-lamp burning ! " 

" There must be somebody aboard," exclaimed the 
captain. "Fowls aren't such fools as to pluck and 
boil themselves. No, sir ; there's a man or men aboard, 
and you've missed 'em." 

" They may have slipped into the lazaretto or down 
the forepeak," answered the mate. ** I didn't look, and 
so I can't say. But as the hatches are on, with tar- 
paulins over them, I'm willing to bet all that I'm worth, 
after searching as I did, that there's no human being in 
that barque." 

The steamer was brigantine-rigged, with a topgallant- 



THE MYSTERY OF TEE '* OCEAN STAB."* 11 

yard. The captain, calling to one of the men who was 
known to possess the best pair of eyes in the ship's 
company, sent him aloft with a binocular glass with 
instructions to carefully search the sea in every quarter 
for any appearance of a boat. By this time a small air 
was blowing out of the south-east, with just enough of 
weight in it to deepen the shade of the blue and to put 
a little curl upon the windward slopes of the swell. Here 
and there the fog banks had thinned, and they were now 
all under way, steering north-west, so that if any one 
of them concealed a boat she was bound to draw out 
clear presently, unless the crew rowed that they might 
keep the vapour about them — a ridiculous supposition. 
But although the man on the steamer's topgallant-yard 
swept the water with the intentness of a shipwrecked 
soul, he remained mute. The fact was, there was 
nothing to see; and after staying aloft ten minutes, 
during which time everybody on deck stared his hardest 
too, he cried out, " There's nothen in sight, sir," and 
came down. 

''Well, it's a blazing mystery, certainly," exclaimed 
the captain of the Guide. " But you'll find I'm right — 
there are people loafing somewhere aboard ; though why 
they shouldn't show themselves let him tell us who can 
find out. But let that be as it will, it won't do to let 
that fine vessel knock about here and perhaps go to the 
bottom in the next gale of wind." He called the second 
ofl&cer, a man named Matthews, on to the bridge. '* Will 
ye take charge of that barque, Mr. Matthews, and carry 
her to Rio ? It isn't far off." 

" Yes, sir," answered the second mate, promptly. 

" You shall have three men — can't spare more ; but 
they'll suflftce, considering what part of the ocean this 
is, if you keep her under easy canvas." 



12 TEE MYSTERY OF THE ''OCEAN 8TA1V' 

" 1*11 manage," said Mr. Matthews. 

" It's a job to tassel your pockethandkerchief with 
dollars, and the mate reports a big harness cask and two 
scuttle-butts. Overhaul her for stores when ye get 
aboard, and let me know before we proceed." 

*'Ay, ay, sir." 

*' I expect you'll find a man or two skulking. There's 
a fowl boiling, and Mr. Williams had to put the fore- 
castle lamp out. This is the age of steam-engines, and 
there's no witchcraft left, so look for the people for 
whom that fowl's cooking ; they'll strengthen your crew. 
Muster the men, Mr. Williams, and ask for volunteers, 
whilst Mr. Matthews gets his duds together." 

This was done ; several men offered, and three likely 
fellows were chosen. One was a trimmer, the others 
sailors. They were not perfectly happy in their minds, 
but the seaman's love of change, coupled with the 
prospect of salvage-money, was too strong for supersti- 
tion. In a few minutes they pitched their bags into 
the boat, the second mate followed, and a couple of the 
steamer's men rowed them aboard the barque. Before 
touching a rope they went to work to search the ship. 
They lifted the hatches and found the hold full of 
cargo. The second mate, as fearless a sailor as ever 
jockeyed a yardarm, crawled about with a lantern but 
unearthed nothing mortal. They searched the fore- 
peak and afterwards the lazaretto, in which they met 
with abundance of stores — beef, pork, peas, flour, lime- 
juice, rum, and the like ; then, having rummaged with 
the pertinacity of Customs officers, they went on deck, 
grimy with sweat and dirt, and the second mate hailed . 
the steamer. 

**Hilloh!" 

" Plenty of stores and fresh water, sir,** 



THE MYSTERY OF TEE "^ OCEAN STARr 13 

"Eight." 

** Cargo almost flush with the main hatch, sir." 

" Eight/' 

"No signs of the crew anywhere. We've crawled 
into every hole and there's nothing alive aboard the 
Ocean Star excepting ourselves and the chickens." 

"Eight!" shouted the captain for the third time. 
He flourished a farewell with his arm ; the mate waved 
his hand, and there was a graceful salutation of several 
sorts of caps over the rail forward. The propeller 
revolved, the steamer gathered way, and the slender 
crew of the Ocean Star were left to shift for themselves. 

The light breeze hung steady, and there floated up 
from alongside the laughing fountainlike - music of 
rippling waters, sweet to the ear as an ice-cold draught 
to the palate after the sickly silence of a long spell of 
tropical calm. The men seized hold of the halliards 
and hoisted the yards, one after another, crowning the 
white and graceful superstructure by the tiny main 
skysail, that gleamed like a star under the blue. A 
glance at the chart gave Mr. Matthews his course, and 
presently the barque, with a little silver curl under 
either bow, and the shadow of one sail lying in a dainty 
curve in the hollow of another, and a flashing as of 
musketry breaking from the glass and brass upon her 
as she leaned with the swell to the sun, was sliding 
quietly southwards, with the steamer already toylike 
in the distance and the fogbanks lifting into the haze. 
No one had thought of removing the saucepan in the 
galley, and when they examined it they found the fowl 
boiled into soup. This they threw overboard ; nor, had 
the fowl been dressed to a hair, is it conceivable that 
their imaginations would have suffered them to put 
their lips to it. The truth is, the more they turned 

2 



14 THE MYSTERY OF THE ** OCEAN STAR/* 

the matter over the more mystifying it grew. That 
a handsome little barque in good trim, with plenty to 
eat and drink aboard, her hold full of valuable cargo, 
not a drop of water drainiBg into her in the twenty-four 
hours — that such a ship should be found abandoned, 
floating about as if she were no better than a timber- 
craft with her decks blown up and her covering-board 
awash, was strange enough to be sure, but not so 
surprising as not to be fitted with some kind of yarn 
tolerably answerable to the circumstance. But what 
was to be made of the mystery of a vessel that exhibited 
the most certain signs imaginable of human life being 
aboard, and that was yet as tenantless as a newly 
dug grave ? There was the galley fire burning, there 
had been the saucepan bubbling and the fowl boiling, 
and the slush-lamp in the forecastle flaming. This 
meant very recent work. The slush-lamp, to be sure, 
might have been alight for some hours, but the freshly 
fed appearance of the fire and the saucepan and the 
fowl signified that there must have been mortal hands 
at work quite lately — undoubtedly within the time since 
the Guide had first sighted the Ocean Star. A boat 
was missing. If the crew had gone away in her since 
the fire had been fed and the fowl had been put on to 
cook, they could not in so short a period have rowed 
out of sight of the steamer's people. Where, then, were 
they ? Had all hands jumped overboard on the smoke 
of the Guide showing on the northern horizon ? But 
a theory of general suicide would still further bewilder 
the problem of the galley fire on to which coals must 
certainly have been shovelled some while after the 
steamer had hove into view. 

One man stood at the wheel, the other hung with 
the second mate near him, and they argued, speculated, 



THS MTSTEBT OF TEE *" OCEAN STAB." 15 

reasoned — to no purpose. They took the trouble to 
search the ship afresh after dinner, with no other result 
than to positively confirm the assurance their earlier 
seeking had obtained for them, that no living man bat 
themselves was on board. 

"Well, sir," said the trimther, addressing Mr. 
Matthews, as the three of them came together again at 
the wheel, "I don't profess to no book-learning, but 
i knows the difference twixt a sprat and a porcupine, 
and my notion's this : since no man's hands made up 
that there fire and put the hen on to bile, somebody 
else must ha' done it." 

" Who else ? " inquired the second mate. 

The fellow gazed at him stupidly for a minute, and 
then said, " Well, a ghost." 

" What's a ghost, Billy ? " asked one of the other 
men. 

" Something ye can't catch hold of, nor'd be able to 
sit upon, if so be as you was to get him down," answered 
the trimmer, defiantly. " No use raysoning there ain't 
no ghosts, for scores have been seen and spoke to ; 
'sides, if there warn't no ghosts there'd be no future, 
the future's meant for the likes o' them. Denying of 
ghosts is the same as denying of salvagion." 

** Have ghosts got any stomachs ? " demanded the 
second mate. 

The trimmer reflected, and said, *'No, they can't 
have no stomachs if they can be walked through." 

*' Then what should a ghost go and cook a fowl 
for ? " said the second mate. 

The trimmer made no answer, and the subject 
dropped. 

Long ere the dusk came the ocean had opened in 
blue radiance to the far sky. The second mate went 



16 THE MYSTERY OF THE ''OCEAN BTAUr 

aloft with the barque's telescope to as high as the main- 
royal yard, but saw nothing. The speed of the vessel 
was barely three miles an hour ; the breeze was languid 
and hot, and the burning sun poised, rayless and huge 
in the western quarter, seemed to be drying up even 
this small movement of life in the atmosphere. Indeed, 
when the darkness came it fell stark calm again. The 
stars, the fitful flashings of phosphorus in the water 
over the side, the vast oceanic hush, the soft winnowing 
sounds of canvas in the darkness on high, like the 
stirring of hidden giant pinions, were elements of the 
night-scene to help whatever emotions superstition 
might have engendered, and even the practical second 
mate felt the subduing influence of points which on any 
other occasion he would have had scarce an eye or ear 
for, when his mind went to the mystery of this deserted 
barque. The men flatly declined to use the forecastle, 

"'Tain't," said one of them, "that I*m like BUly, 
sir, and believes in ghosts. But until this here traverse 
has been worked out I'd rather lay on deck. Them 
hammocks has an onpleasant look . . . and the vessel 
being desarted, who could have lighted the fo'ksle 
lamp ? " 

They divided themselves into watches, and used the 
cabin to lie in. They broached a rum-cask in the 
lazaretto and made themselves a cheerful bowl, and 
the drink did their imaginations good. Moreover, the 
second mate helped them yet by bidding them fix their 
minds on the money they were bound to take up when 
the salvage claim had been settled; yet for all that 
they hung together. Two kept the deck whilst the 
others lay down, and whilst one of the two on duty 
stood at the wheel the other kept close beside him. The 
truth is, none of them could feel certain that the ship 



THE MYSTEUY OF THE ''OCEAN START 17 

was empty of all but themselves, spite of their repeated 
search; and this mere notion was enough to breed 
uneasiness, to render the movement of a shadow startling, 
to keep their eyes travelling along the decks and up 
aloft 

** What's a worritting me's this, sir," said the 
trimmer. " Here's a job as may never be 'splained/' 

** Well, I can't fit any sense to it, for one," answered 
Mr. Matthews. "A single corpse would have made 
the matter intelligible; but to find the galley fire 
burning, the fowl cooking, the fo'ksle lamp alight, and 
no one aboard, and no boat in sight — No ! there's 
nothing to be made of it by thinking. It'll have to be 
a riddle without an answer." 

** Providing you don't sarch the soopernatural first," 
said the trimmer. 

The second mate called a sea-blessing upon the 
fool's head, and fell a whistling for wind. 

In the morning watch a light air came along right 
over the stern ; they squared the yards, and the Ocean 
Star began to move again. The sun rose, and the day 
broke in glory, the sea a surface of wrinkled sapphire, 
the heavens lifting from pale blue at the horizon to 
violet at the zenith, here and there a cloud shining like 
a wind-gall, and the small breeze fiery. The second 
mate, glancing about him, spied something white shine 
gleaming over the starboard bow. He fetched the glass 
and looked. It might have passed for some topmost-sail 
of a ship hull down behind the sea-line, trembling in 
tho swimming hot refraction that hove it up as a thing 
apart. But the keen eye of the sailor knew better. 
What he saw was not a ship's sail, and without a word 
he mounted to the upper main-topsail yard, and there 
made out the object to be a boat, with apparently a 



18 TEE MYSTERY OF TEE '^ OCEAN STAB.** 

shirt or two lifted as a signal or a sail. So weak was 
the wind that a long hour went by before the boat could 
be seen clearly with the eye ; but ere this the telescope 
had detected the presence of several men in her, and 
the wet sparkle of oars, and the disappearance of what 
had served for a sail, showed them to be rowing towards 
the barque. The second mate looked from the boat 
upon the water to the port-quarter boat hanging griped 
at the davits, and exclaimed, " I'm a Dutchman if those 
men there are not the barque's crew ! " The others 
peered and agreed, for both boats were alike — white, of 
a whaling pattern, and a couple of black disks painted 
on the bows. The barque was headed directly for the 
poor fellows, and a man stood ready to heave a line to 
them. The laboured, languid movement of the oars 
sufficiently marked their condition. It was like the 
action of the antennae of some dying insect, and more 
pathetic than a cry of suffering. The boat approached, 
the men pulled in their oars, and fell to gesticulating, 
making many piteous motions of entreaty, and pointing 
to their mouths. 

" They want water ! " exclaimed the mate, breath- 
lessly. 

The coil of line was thrown : one in the bows caught 
it with trembling hands and took a turn round a thwart 
with it, and then stumbled, nor did he seem able to rise, 
though he held to the line with the tenacity of a dying 
grip. There were four of them, and they were so weak 
that they had to be lifted over the side. Coleridge 
speaks of thirst making a man grin. The torment in 
these poor creatures had wrought an uglier distortion 
of countenance even than the simulation of mirth in 
anguish, and their sole gasp was, " Water ! " as they 
sank down upon the hot deck with lips as white as the 



THE MYSTERY OF THE ** OCEAN STAR/' 19 

planks, and froth like sea-foam oozing from the comers 
of their mouths. 

It was some hours before any one of them was fit to 
tell the story of their disaster, and then this was the 
substance of the relation of the oldest of the four, who 
had rallied sooner than his mates. Their ship was the 
barque that Mr. Matthews was now in charge of. They 
had sailed from Hull two months previously, and whilst 
wind-bound in the Downs two of the men sneaked 
ashore in a galley-punt and ran away, and the vessel 
put to sea short-handed to that extent. Three days 
after sailLug the captain was found dead in his bed. 
This was the first of a series of misfortunes. Before 
a fortnight had passed the chief mate was stricken with 
some kind of fever, from which he never recovered, 
though he continued to navigate the ship down to within 
twelve hours of his death. This left eight men. The 
carpenter acting as second mate (an uncertificated man) 
took charge. In the fifth week, whilst reefing topsails, 
a man fell from aloft, struck his head and shortly after- 
wards expired. Another man not long after was dis- 
abled by the slipping of the forecastle capstan, and in 
less than a week his mates gave him the sailor's last 
toss over the side. This left five men to carry on the 
ship's work. The number would certainly have sufficed, 
but three days before the Guide sighted the barque the 
second mate, who was hanging over the stern to get 
a view of the rudder, fell. The vessel was then going 
at some six or seven miles an hour, and before the boat 
could be lowered the man was a long distance astern. 
Banks of vapour similar to those into which the Guide 
had steamed had been moving before the breeze over 
the face of the waters throughout the day, and there- 
fore it was an act of singular indiscretion on the part 



20 TEE MYSTERY OF THE " OCEAS STAR." 

of the crew to .quit the barque. They were chiefly 
urged, however, by the consideration that the second 
mate was the only man in the ship who could take 
a sight or work out the dead reckoning, and that 
without him their plight would be desperate indeed. 
They left a young ordinary seaman behind to bring the 
barque to the wind, and rowed away in the direction 
where the second mate was swimming ; but soon after 
they had gone a fog-bank rolled down on the vessel, the 
wind at the same moment freshened a trifle, the weather 
thickened about them, and being unable to see anything 
of the Ocean Star during the afternoon they lost her for 
good in the night. 

Such was the poor fellow's story, and it explained 
much of the mystery of the abandoned barque. The 
rest could only be conjectured ; but when the survivors 
of the original crew came to talk the matter over with 
Mr. Matthews and his men they agreed among them 
that the ordinary seaman who had been left behind was 
in the vessel when the Guide sighted her ; that he had 
put the fowl on to cook for his dinner; that on the 
steamer heaving in view he heaped coals ,on to the 
galley fire with the idea, perhaps, of inviting assistance 
by such signal as smoke would make; that he had 
lighted the forecastle lamp and left it burning ; and that 
the ill-luck of the ship pursuing him he must have 
fallen overboard, probably whilst springing on to the 
rail to watch the steamer. If this was not so, there is 
no other solution of the mystery of the Ocean Star, and 
the trimmer was right.* 

* Kcprintod from Longman^s Magazine. 



THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE 

OF A CHIEF MATE. 

In the newspapers of 1876, appeared the following 
extracts from the log of a merchantman : — 

** Volcanic Island in the North Atlantic. — The 
ship Hercules of Liverpool, lately arrived in the Mersey, 
reports as follows : March 23, in two degrees, twelve 
minutes, north latitude, thirty-three degrees, twenty- 
seven minutes, west longitude, a shock of earthquake 
was felt, and shortly afterwards, a mass of land was 
hove up at a distance of about two miles from the ship. 
Michael Balfour, the chief oflBcer, fell overboard. A 
buoy was thrown to him, the ship brought to the wind, 
and a boat lowered within fifteen minutes of the 
occurrence. But though the men sought the chief 
mate for some, time, nothing could be seen of him, and 
it is supposed that he sank shortly after falling into the 
sea. Masters of vessels are recommended to keep a 
sharp look-out in approaching the situation of the new 
island as given above. No doubt, it will be sighted by 
other ships, and duly reported." 

I am Michael Balfour ; I it was who fell overboard ; 
and it is needless for me to say here that I was Tiot 
drowned. The volcanic island was only reported by one 
other ship, and the reason why will be read at large in 



22 EXTBAOBDINABY ADVENTUBE OF A CHIEF MATE. 

this account of my strange adventure, and merciful 
deliverance. 

It was the evening of the 23rd of March, 1876. Our 
passage to the Equator from Sydney had been good, 
but, for three days, we had been bothered with light 
head winds and calms, and since four o'clock this day, 
the ocean had stretched in oil-smooth undulations to its 
margin, with never a sigh of air to crispen its marvellous 
serenity into shadow. The courses were hauled up, the 
staysails down, the mizzen brailed up ; the canvas 
delicately beat the masts to the soft swing of the tall 
spars, and sent a small rippling thunder through the 
still air, like a roll of drums heard at a distance. The 
heat was great ; I had never remembered a more biting 
sun. The pitch in the seams was soft as putty, the 
atmosphere was full of the smell of blistered paint, and 
it was like putting your hand on a red-hot stove to 
touch the binnacle hood, or grasp for an instant an iron 
belaying pin. 

A sort of loathing comes into a man with a calm 
like this. *' The very deep did rot," says the poet, and 
you understood his fancy when you marked the blind 
heave of the swell to the sun standing in the midst of 
a sky of brass, with his wake under him sinking in a 
sinuous dazzle, as though it was his fiery glance 
piercing to the green depths a thousand fathoms deep. 
It was hot enough to slacken the nerves, and give the 
imagination a longer scope than sanity would have it 
ride by. That was why, perhaps, I found something 
awful and forbidding in the sunset, though at another 
time it might scarcely have detained my gaze a minute. 
But it is true, nevertheless, that others besides me 
gaped at the wonderful gushings of hot purple — arrested 
whirlpools of crimson haze, they looked — in the heart 



EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE, 23 

of which the orb sat rayless, flooding the sea with blood 
under him, so magniflcently fell was the hue, and 
flushing the sky with twenty dyes of gold and orange, 
till, in the far east, the radiance fainted into the delicacy 
of pale amber. 

" Yon*s a sunset," said Captain Matthews, a North of 
England man, to me, ''to make a fellow think of the 
Last Day." 

" I'm looking at it, sir," said I, ** as though I had 
never seen a sunset before. That's the oddest part of 
it to my mind. There's fire enough there to eat a gale 
up. How should a cat's-paw crawl then?" And I 
softly whistled, whilst he wetted his finger and held it 
up — but to no purpose ; the draught was all between 
the rails, and they blew forward and aft with every 
swing of the sails. 

When the dusk came along, the silence upon the sea 
was something to put all sorts of moods into a man. 
The sky was a hovering velvet stretch of stars, with 
a young moon lying curled among them, and winkings 
of delicate violet sheet-lightning down in the south-west, 
as though some gigantic-tinted lantern, passing, flung 
its light upon the dark blue obscure there. The captain 
went below, after a long, impatient look round, and 
I overhang the rail, peering into the water alongside, 
or sending my gaze into the frightful distance, where 
the low-lying stars hung. With every soft dip of the 
ship's side to the slant of the dark folds, there shot 
forth puflfs of cloudy phosphor, intermixed with a 
sparkling of sharper fires now and again, blue, yellow, 
and green, like worms of flame striking out of their 
cocoons of misty radiance. The noise of the canvas on 
high resembled the stirring of pinions, and the cheep of 
a block, the grind of a parrel, helped the illusion, as 



24 EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE OF A CEIEF MATE, 

though the sounds were the voices of huge birds restlessly 
beating their pinions aloft. 

Presently, the man at the wheel startled me with an 
observation. I went to him, and he pointed upwards, 
with a long shadowy arm. I looked, and saw a corposant, 
as it is called at sea — a St. Elmo's fire — ^burning at the 
end of the crossjack yard. The yard lay square, and 
the polished sea beneath gave back the reflection so 
clearly that the mystic fire lay like a huge glow-worm 
on the black mirror. 

" There should be wind not far off," said the helms- 
man, in a subdued voice, for few sailors can see one 
of these lights without a stirring of his superstitious in- 
stincts ; and this particular exhalation hung close to us. 

** I hope so,*' said I ; " though I don't know where 
it's to come from." 

As I spoke, the light vanished. I ran my eye over 
the yards, expecting its re-appearance, but it returned 
no more, and the sails rose pale and phantom-like to 
the stars. I was in an odd humour, and this was an 
apparition not to brighten one up. Of course, one 
knows all about these marine corpse-candles, and can 
explain their nature ; but, nevertheless, the sudden kind- 
ling of them upon the darkness of the night, in the dead 
hush of the calm, or amidst the fury of the shrieking 
hurricane, produces feelings which there is nothing in 
science to resolve. I could have laughed to find myself 
sending^ a half-awed look aloft, as if I expected to see 
some visionary hand at work upon another one of these 
graveyard illuminations, with a stealing out of some 
large, sad face to the melancholy glow ; but I returned 
to the side very pensive for all that, and there stood 
watching the fiery outline of a shark subtly sneaking 
dose to the surface (insomuch that the wake of its fin 



:. I 



EXTRAOBDINARY ADVENWRE OF A CHIEF MATE, 25 

slipped away in little coils of green flame), towards the 
ship's bows. 

Half an hour later, the dark curl of a light air of wind 
shattered the starlight in the sea, and our canvas fell 
asleep. I called to the watch to trim sail, and in a few 
moments the decks were busy with the figures of -men 
pulling and hauling and surging out at the ropes, in 
sulky, slumberous growlings. The captain arrived. 

** Little worth having in this, I fear," said he. " But 
make the most of it — make the most of it. Get the 
foretopmast stimsail run up. If she creeps but a 
league, it is a league to the good.'* 

The sail was sleepily set. Humbugging about with 
stunsails to the cat's-paws little pleased the men, 
especially at night. For three days they had been 
box-hauling the yards about to no purpose, and it was 
sickening work running stunsail-booms out to airs that 
died in their struggles to reach us. However, here was 
a draught at last, and the old gurgling and moaning 
sounds of the breathless, sluggish swell washing heavily 
like liquid lead to the sides, were replaced by the tink- 
ling noises of waters parting at the bows with a pretty 
little seething of expiring foam, and the hiss of exploding 
froth-bells. At eleven o'clock, the light breeze was still 
holding, and the ship was floating softly through the 
dusk, the paring of moon swaying like a silver sickle 
over the port mizzen topsail yardarm, everything quiet 
along the decks, no light save the sheen from the,lamps 
in the binnacle, and nothing stirring but the figure of a 
man on the forecastle pacing. athwart-ships, and blotting 
out at every step a handful of the stars which lay like 
dust on the blackness, under the yawn of the forecourse. 
On a sudden, a steamer's lights showed on the starboard 
bow — a green beam, and a yellow one above, with the 



^ 



26 EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATK 

water on fire beneath them, and sparks floating away 
upon her coil of smoke, that made you think of the 
spangles of a falling f ocket. She went past swiftly, at 
no great distance from us ; there was not a moan in the 
hot breeze to disturb the wonderful ocean stillness, and 
you almost thought you caught the beating of the iron 
heart in her, and the curious monotonous songs which 
engines sing as they work. She swept past like a 
phantom, running a line of illuminated windows along, 
which resembled a row of street-lamps out in the dark- 
ness, and as she came on to our quarter, she struck 
seven bells — half-past eleven — the rich, metallic notes 
of which I clearly heard ; and with the trembling of the 
last stroke upon the ear, her outline melted. 

At that instant a peculiar thrill ran through the 
ship. It may be likened to the trembling in a floor 
when a heavy waggon passes in the street outside. It 
was over in a breath, but I could have sworn that it was 
not my fancy. I walked aft to the wheel and said to the 
man, *' Did you notice anything just now ? " 

*' Seemed to me as if the vessel trembled like," he 
replied. 

As he spoke the ship shook again, this time strongly; 
it was something more than a shudder, the sensation 
was for all the world as though she had scraped over 
a shoal of rock or shingle. There was a little clatter 
below, a noise of broken glass. The watch who had 
been dozing on deck sprang to their feet, and their 
ejaculations of surprise and fear rolled in a growl among 
them. The captain ran out of the companion-way in 
his shirt and trousers. 

" What was that, Mr. Balfour ? " he bawled. 

''Either the shock of an earthquake," said I, ''or 
a whale sliding along our keel.' 



EXTliAOBDINAnT ADYENTVRE OF A CHIEF MATE. 27 

** Get a cast of the lead ! get a cast of the lead ! *' 
he shouted. 

This was done, to the full scope of the handline, 
withont bottom, of course. By this time the watch 
below had tumbled up and all hands were now on deck, 
staring aloft or over the side, sniffing, spitting, mutter- 
ing, and wondering what had happened. 

*^ There's that bloomin' compreesant come again ! " 
exclaimed a hoarse voice; and, sure enough, a lig^t 
similar to the one that had hung at the crossjack yard- 
arm now floated upon the end of the upper main-topsail 
yard. 

** The devil's abroad to-night ! *' exclaimed the captain. 
'' There's sulphur enough about; " and he fell a-snuffling. 

What followed might have made an infidel suppose 
so ; for scarce were the words out of his mouth when there 
happened an astonishing blast of noise, as loud and 
violent as that of forty or fifty cannons fired off at once : 
and out of the black sea no further than a mile broad 
on the starboard beam rose a pillar of fire, crimson as 
the light of the setting sun and as dazzling too : it hved 
whilst you might have counted twenty, but in that time 
it lighted up the sea for leagues and leagues, put out 
the stars and made the sky resemble a canopy of yellow 
satin ; we on the ship saw one another's faces as if by 
daylight — the shrouds and masts and our own figures 
cast jet-black shadows on the deck — ^the whole ship 
flashed out to that amazing radiance like a fabric sun- 
touched. The column of fire then flattened and dis- 
appeared, and the night rolled down upon our blinded 
eyes as black as thunder. 

There was no noise : no hissing as of boiling water. 
If the furious report that preceded the leap of the fire 
had rendered its coming terrible, its extinction was made 



28 EXTRAOBDINABY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATR 

not less awful by the tomb-like stillness that attended 
it. I sprang on to the rail believing I could perceive 
a dark mass — ^like a deeper dye upon the blackness that 
way — upon the water, and, to steady myself, caught 
hold of the mizzen loyal backstay, swinging out to my 
arm's length and peering with all my might. My 
excitement was great, and the consternation that 
possessed the ship's crew was upon me. As I leaned, 
the vessel heeled violently to a large swell caused by 
the volcanic disturbances. The roll was extraordinarily 
severe, heaving the vessel down to her covering*board, 
and the great hill of water running silent and in dark- 
ness through the sea, so that it could neither be viewed 
nor heard, made the sickening lurch a dreadful surprise 
and wonder. 

It was in that moment that I fell overboard. I 
suppose my grip of the backstay relaxed when the ship 
lay down; but, let the thing have happened how it 
would, in a breath I was under water. It is said that 
the swiftness of thought is best shown by dreams. 
This may be so ; yet I cannot believe that thought was 
ever swifter in a dream than it was in me ere I came 
to the surface, for in those few seconds I gathered 
exactly what had befallen me, wondered whether my 
fall had been seen, whether I should be saved, realized 
my hopeless condition if I had not been observed, and, 
above all, was thinking steadfastly and with horror 
of the shark I had not long ago watched stemming in 
fire past the ship. I was a very indifferent swimmer, 
and what little power I had in that way was like to 
be paralyzed by thoughts of the shark. I rose and 
fetched a breath, shook the water out of my eyes, and 
looked for the ship. She had been sliding along at 
the rate of about four knots an hour; but had she 



EXTBAOBDINAHY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE, 29 

been sailing at ten she could not seem to have gone 
further from me during the brief while I was submerged. 
From the edge of the water, where my eyes were, she 
appeared a towering pale shadow about a mile oflF. I 
endeavoured to scream out ; but whether the cold of 
the plunge had bereft me of my voice, or that I had 
swallowed water enough to stop my pipes, I found I 
could utter nothing louder than a small groan. I 
made several strokes with my arms, and suddenly spied 
a lifebuoy floating almost twenty yards ahead of me. 
I made for it in a transport of joy, for the sight of it 
was all the assurance I could ask that they knew on 
the ship that I had tumbled overboard, and, coming to 
the buoy, I seized and threw it over my head, and then 
got it under my arms and so floated. 

The breeze — such as it was — was on the ship's 
quarter, and she would need to describe a considerable 
arc before she rounded to. I could hear very faintly 
the voices on board, the flinging down of coils of rope, 
the dim echoes of hurry and commotion. I again 
sought to exert my lungs, but could deliver no louder 
note than a moan. The agony of mind I was under 
lest a shark should seize me I cannot express, and my 
strained eyeballs would come from the tall shadow of 
the ship to the sea about me in a wild searching of the 
liquid ebony of it for the sparkling configuration of 
the most abhorred of all fish. I could have sworn 
that hours elapsed before they lowered a boat from the 
ship that seemed to grow fainter and fainter every time 
I looked at her, so swallowing is the character of ocean 
darkness, and so subtle apparently, so fleet, in fact, the 
settling away of a fabric under canvas from an object 
stationary on the water. I could distinctly hear the 
rattle of the oars in the rowlocks and the splash of 
3 



80 EXTBAOBDINABY ADVENTUIIE OF A CHIEF MATE. 

the dipped blades, but could not discern the boat. It 
was speedily evident, however, that they were pulling 
wide of me. My ear could not mistake. Again I tried 
to shout, but to no purpose. Manifestly no one had 
thought of taking my bearings when I fell, and I, who 
lay south, was being sought for south-west. 

Time passed ; the boat never approached me within 
a quarter of a mile. They must instantly have heard 
me, could I have hallo'd ; but my throat refused its 
office. I reckoned that they continued to row here 
and there for about half an hour, during which they 
were several times hailed by the captain, as I sup- 
posed ; the sound of the oars then died. A little later 
I heard the very faint noises made by their hoisting the 
boat and hauling in upon the braces, and then there 
was nothing for me to do but to watch, with dying eyes, 
the shadow of the ship till it faded, and the stars shone 
where she had been. 

The sky shed very little light, and there was no 
foam to cast an illumination of its own. However, by 
this time, as you will suppose, I was used to my 
situation, that is to say, the horror and novelty of my 
condition had abated and settled into a miserable 
feeling of despair, so that I was like a dying man who 
had passed days in an open boat, and who languidly 
directs his eyes over the gunwale at the sea, with the 
hopelessness that is bred by familiarity with his dreadful 
posture. It was some time after the ship had melted 
into the airy dusk that I seemed to notice, for the first 
time since I had been in the lifebuoy, the lump of black- 
ness at which I had been straining my eyes when the 
vessel heeled and I fell. It had the elusiveness of a 
light at sea, that is best seen (at a distance) by gazing 
a little on one side of it. It lay a black mass, and 



EXTBAOBDINABY ADVENTUBS OF A CHIEF MATE. 81 

whether it was a vast huddle of weeds, or a great whale 
killed by the earthquake, or solid land uphove by the 
volcanic rupture was not conjecturable. It hung still 
and not very tall, for I could not see that it put out 
any stars, and was about a mile distant. Whatever it 
might prove, I could not be worse oflf near or on or 
amidst it than I was here ; so, setting my face towards 
it, I began to strike out with my legs and arms. 

The water was so fiery, it chipped in flashes to every 
blow of my hands. I swam in the utmost terror, never 
knowing but that the next moment I should be feeling 
the teeth of a shark upon my legs, for the sparkling of 
the sea to my kicks and motions was signal enough for 
such a beast if it was a league distant ; but I may as 
well say here that there is no doubt the shock of earth- 
quake and the flame effectually cleared the sea in its 
neighbourhood of every kind of fish that floated in it, 
though the hope of such a thing could yield me but very 
little comfort whilst I swam. 

I continued to make good progress, and presently 
approaching the block of blackness, for so it looked, 
perceived that it was certainly land — a solid rock, in 
short — ^the head of some mountainous submarine for- 
mation lifted ten or twelve feet above the sea. I could 
now discern a faintness of vapour circling up from it 
and showing like steam against the stars. Its front 
stretched a length of a few hundred feet; how far it 
went behind I could not tell. A small sound of cream- 
ing waters came from it, produced by the light swell 
washing its shelter side. It lay all in a line of greyish 
darkness, even when I was quite close, and I could see 
nothing but the shapeless body of it. On a sudden my 
feet struck ground, and I waded thirty paces along a 
shelf that was under water, till my paces lifted to the 



32 EXTBA0BDINAB7 ADVENTURE OF A CllIEF MATR 

dry beach. But by this time I was fearfully exhausted 
— I could scarcely breathe. My legs and arms were 
numbed to the weight of lead. The atmosphere was 
warm, but not unbearably so — not hotter than it had 
been at noon in the ship. Steam crawled up from every 
pore, like the drainings of smoke from damp straw, but 
it did not add to the distress of my breathing. I made 
shift to stagger onwards till I had gone about fifty feet 
from the wash of the sea; nature then broke down; 
my knees gave way, I stumbled and fell — whether in a 
swoon, or whether in a death-like slumber, I cannot say ; 
all I can tell is that when I awoke, or recovered my 
senses, the sun stood fifteen degrees above the horizon, 
and I opened my eyes upon a hot and dazzling sky. 

I sat up in the utmost amazement. My mind, for 
some time, was all abroad, and I could recollect nothing. 
Memory then entered me with a bound, and I staggered 
to my feet with a cry. The first thing I took notice of 
was that my clothes were nearly dry, which was not 
very reconcilable with the steam that was still issuing 
from the island, though it was as I say. My bones 
ached cruelly, but I was not sensible of any particular 
languor. The brilliance was so blinding that I had to 
enploy my eyes very warily in order to see ; and it was 
not until I had kept opening and shutting them and 
shading them with my hands for some minutes that they 
acquired their old power. The island on which I stood 
had unquestionably been hove up in the night by the 
earthquake. I cannot figure it better than by asking 
you to imagine a gigantic mass of pumice-stone some- 
what flat on top and shelving on all sides very gently 
to the water, lying afloat but steady on the sea. It was 
of the hue of pumice and as clean as an eggshell with- 
out a grain of calcined dust or any appearance of scorisB 



EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE 83 

that I could anywhere observe. It was riddled with 
holes, some wide and deep — a very honeycomb, and that 
I did not break my neck or a limb in my staggering 
walk from the beach in the darkness, I must ever account 
the most miraculous part of my adventure. 

But what (when I had my whole wits) riveted my 
attention, and held me staring open-mouthed as though 
in good truth the apparition of the »devil had arisen 
before me, was the body of a ship leaning on its bilge, 
at not more than a gun-shot from where I stood, look- 
ing towards the interior. "When my eyes first went to 
the thing I could not believe them. I imagined it some 
trick of the volcanic explosion that had fashioned a 
portion of the land or rock (as it may be called) into 
the likeness of a ship ; but on gazing steadfastly I saw 
that it was indeed a vessel, rendered extraordinarily 
beautiful and wonderful, by being densely covered with 
shells, of a hundred different kinds, by which her bulk 
was (enlarged though her shape was preserved. Bright 
fountains of water were gushing from fifty places in 
her ; all these waterfalls shone like rainbows and showed 
surprisingly soft and lovely against the velvet-green of 
the moss and the grey and kaleidoscopic tints of the 
shells upon her. Lost in amazement I made my way 
towards her, and stood viewing her at a short distance. 
She had three lower masts standing — one right in the 
bows, and the mizzen raking very much aft. All three 
masts were supported by shrouds, and that was all the 
rigging the sea had left. She looked to be made of 
shells and moss : her shrouds and masts were encrusted 
as ihickly as her hull. She was a mere tub of a ship in 
shape, being scarce twice as long as she was broad, 
with great fat buttocks, a very tall stern narrowing 
a-top, and low bows with a prodigious curve to the stem- 



U EXTHAORDINAILY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE. 

head. I am not well versed in the shipping of olden 
times, but I would have willingly staked all I was worth 
in the world that the fabric before me belonged to a 
period not much later than the days of Columbus, and 
that she had been sunk at least three centuries below 
the sea ; and it was also perfectly clear to me that she 
had risen in the daylight, out of her green and oozy 
sepulchre, with the upheaval of the bed on which she 
lay to the convulsion that had produced this island. 

But my situation was not one, to suffer me to stand 
long, idly wondering and staring. The moment I brought 
my eyes away from the ship to the mighty desolation 
of the blue and gleaming ocean, a horror broke upon me, 
my heart turned into lead, and in the anguish of my 
spirits I involuntarily lifted my clenched hands to God. 
What was to become of me ? I had no boat, no means 
of making anything to bear me — nothing but the life- 
buoy that was no better than a trap for sharks to tear 
me to pieces in. I was thirsty, but there was no fresh 
water on this steaming speck of rock, and I tell you, the 
knowing that there was none, and that unless rain fell 
I must die of thirst, had like to have driven me mad. 
Where the ship was and beyond it, the island rose some- 
what in the formx)f a gentle undulation. I walked that 
way and there obtained a view of the whole island, which 
was very nearly circular, like the head of a hill, some- 
what after the shape of a saucepan lid. It resembled a 
great mass of sponge to the sight, and there was no 
break upon its surface save the encrusted ship, which 
did, indeed, form a very conspicuous object. Happening 
to look downwards, I spied a large dead fish, of the size 
of a cod of sixteen or eighteen pounds, lying a-dry in a 
hole. I put my arm down and dragged it out, and, 
hoping by appeasing my hunger to help my thirst some- 



EXTBAOBDINABY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE. 85 

what, I opened my knife and cut out a little raw steak, 
and ate it. The moisture in the flesh refreshed me, and, 
that the sun might not spoil the carcase, I carried it to 
the shadow made by the ship and put it under one of 
the waterfalls that the play might keep it sweet. There 
was plenty more dead flsh in the numerous holes, and I 
picked out two and put them in the shade ; but I knew 
that the great heat must soon taint them and rot the 
rest, whence would come a stench that might make the 
island poisonous to me. 

I sat down under the bends of the ship for the shadow 
it threw and gazed at the sea. Perhaps I ought to have 
felt grateful for the miraculous creation of this spot of 
land, when, but for it, I must have miserably perished 
in the life-buoy, dying a most dreadful, slow, tormenting 
death, if some shark had not quickly despatched me ; 
but the solitude was so frightful, my doom seemed so 
assured, I was threatened with such dire sufferings ere 
my end came that, in the madness and despair of my 
heart, I could have cursed the intervention of this rock, 
which promised nothing but the prolongation of my 
misery. There was but one live spark amid the ashes of 
my hopes — ^namely, that the island lay in the highway 
of ships, and that it was impossible a vessel could sight 
so unusual an object without deviating from her course 
to examine it. That was all the hope I had ; but God 
knows there was nothing in it to keep me alive, when I 
set off against it the consideration that there was no 
water on the island, no food; that a ship would have to 
sail close to remark so flat and little a point as this rock ; 
and that days, ay, and weeks, might elapse before the 
rim of yonder boundless surface, stretching in airy leagues 
of deep blue to the azure sky at the horizon, should bo 
broken by the star-like shining of a sail. 



86 EXTBAOBDINABT ADVENTUBE OF A CHIEF MATS. 

Happily, the wondrous encrusted bulk was at hand 
to draw my thoughts away from my hideous condition, 
for I verily believe, had my eye found nothing to rest 
upon but the honeycombed pumice, my brain would have 
given way. I stood up and took a long view of the 
petrified shell-covered structure, feeling a sort of awe in 
me whilst I looked, for it was. a kind of illustration of 
the saying of the sea giving up its dead, and the thing 
stirred me almost as though it had been a corpse that 
had risen to the sun, after having been a secret of the 
deep for three hundred years. 

It occurred to me that if I could board her she might 
furnish me with a shelter from the dew of the night. 
She had channels with long plates, all looking as if they 
were formed of shells ; and stepping round to the side 
towards which she leaned, I found the fore channel 
plates to be within reach of my hands. The shells were 
slippeiy and cutting ; but I was a sailor, and there would 
have been nothing in a harder climb than this to daunt 
me. So, after a bit of a struggle, I succeeded in hauling 
myself into the chains, and thence easily dragged myself 
over the rail on to the deck. 

The sight between the bulwarks was far more lovely 
and surprising than the spectacle presented by the ship's 
sides. For the decks seemed not only formed of shells 
of a hundred different hues : there was a great abundance 
of branching corals, white as milk, and marine plants 
of kinds for which I could not find names, of several 
brilliant colours, so that what with the delicate velvet 
of the moss, the dark shades of seaweed of figurations 
as dainty as those of ferns, and the different sorts of 
shells, big and little, all lying as solid as if they had 
been set in concrete, the appearance the ship sub- 
mitted was something incredibly fantastic and admirable. 



EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE 87 

Whether the hatches were on or not I could not tell^ so 
thickly coated were the decks ; but whether or not, the 
deposits and marine growths rendered the surface as 
impenetrable as iron, and I believe it would have kept 
a small army of labourers plying their pickaxes for a 
whole week to have made openings into the hold through 
that shelly coating of mail. 

My eye was taken by a peculiar sort of protuberance 
at the foot of the mainmast ; it stood as high as I did 
and had something of the shape of a man, and, indeed, 
after staring at it for some time, I perceived that it had 
been a man : that is to say, it was a human skeleton, 
filled up to the bulk of a living being by the shells and 
barnacles which covered it. Ashore, it might have 
passed for some odd imitation in shells of the human 
figure ; but, viewing it as I did, in the midst of that 
great ocean, amidst the frightful solitude of the great 
dome of heaven, in a ship that was like the handiwork 
of the sea-gods at the bottom of the deep — I say, looking 
at it as I did, and knowing the thing had had life in 
centuries past and had risen thus wildly garnished 
out of the unfathomable secret heart of the ocean, it 
awed me to an extent I cannot express, and I gazed as 
though fascinated. In all probability, this was a man 
who, when the ship foundered, had been securely lashed 
to the mast, for safety or for punishment. 

I turned away at last, with a shudder, and walked 
aft. The wreck was unquestionably some Spanish or 
Portuguese carrack or galleon, as old as I have stated, 
for you saw her shape when you stood on her deck, and 
her castellated stern rising into a tower from her poop 
and poop-royal, as it was called, proved her age as con- 
vincingly as if the date of her launch had been scored 
upon her. What was in her hold? Thousands of 



88 MXTBAOBDINABT ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATR 

pounds worth of precious ore in gold and silrer bars and 
ingots for all I knew ; but had she been flush to her 
upper decks with doubloons and ducats, I would have 
exchanged them all for the sight of a ship, or for a rill 
of fresh water. I searched the horizon with feverish 
eyes ; there was nothing in sight. The afternoon was 
advancing; the sun was burning unbearably midway 
down the western sky, and my thirst tormented me. 
I dropped over the side and cut another steak of fish ; 
but though the moisture temporarily relieved me, the 
salt of the water flowing upon it dried into my throat 
and increased my sufferings. There was a light air 
blowing, and the sea trembled to it into a deeper hue of 
blue, and met in a glorious stream of twinkling rubies 
under the setting sun. I counted half a score of wet 
black fins round about the island, and understood that the 
sharks had recovered from their scare, and had returned 
to see if the earthquake had cast up anything to eat. 

When the sun sank, the night came along in a stride ; 
the curl of the moon looked wanly down upon me, and 
the sky flashed with starshine, so rich and magnifi- 
cent was the glow of the nearer luminaries. I re- 
entered the ship and stepped to the cabin front, over 
which extended a " break " or pent-house, under which 
I might find some shelter from the dew that was already 
falling like rain, and squatted down, Lascar fashion, 
with my back against the shell-armoured bulkhead. 
Great Father ! never had I known what solitude was 
till then. There was no sound, save the quiet foaming 
of waters draining from the wreck, and the purring of the 
very light swell softly moving upon the beach, and the 
faint, scarce audible whispering of the dew-laden draught 
of air stirring in the stony, fossilized shrouds. My 
throat felt like hot brass ; I tried to pray, but could not. 



EXTBAOBDINABT ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE. 80 

Imagination grew a little deliriouSi and I would some- 
times fancy that the terrible shape at the foot of the 
mainmast moved as if seeking to free itself and approach 
me. There was a constant glancing of shooting stars on 
high^ swift sparklings and trailings of luminous dust, 
and, as on the previous night, here and there upon the 
horizon a dim violet play of sheet lightning. It was 
like being at the bottom of the sea, alive there, to be in 
this black, shelly, weed-smelling ship. Whether my 
thoughts came to me waking or sleeping I cannot tell ; 
but I know some mad fancies possessed me, and upon 
the sable canvas of the night, imagination, like a magic 
lantern, flung a dozen febrile-tinctured pictures, and I 
particularly recollect conceiving that I was my own soul 
at the bottom of the ocean in the ship ; that in the green 
twilight of the valley in which I was I saw many forms 
of dead men standing or lying or sitting, preserving the 
postures in which they had come floating down into the 
darkly gleaming profound, — ^figures of sailors of different 
centuries clad in the garb of their times, intermixed with 
old ordnance making coarse and rusty streaks upon the 
sand, the glitter of minted money, the gleam of jewels, 
and fish brightly apparelled and of shapes unknown to 
man floating round about like fragments of rainbow. 
My dreams always wound up with imaginations of bab- 
bling drinks, and then I*d wake with the froth upon my 
lips. However, I got some ease by leaving my handker- 
chief to soak in the dew and then sucking it. 

Several times during the night I had got on to the 
upper poop — the deck above the poop anciently termed 
the poop-royal — and looked around me. But there was 
nothing to see, not a shadow to catch the eye. The 
breeze freshened somewhat about midnight, and the air 
was made pleasant by the musical noises of running 



40 EXTSAOUDINJMY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE, 

waters. I fell asleep an hour before dawn, and when I 
awoke, the early ashen line was brightening in the east. 
The birth of the day is rapid in those parallels, and the 
light of the morning was soon all over sea and sky. I 
turned to search the ocean, and the first thing I saw 
was a brig not above half a mile from the island. She 
had studding sails set and was going north, creeping 
along before the breeze. The instant I saw her I rushed 
on to the poop, where my figure would be best seen, and 
fell to flourishing my handkerchief like a maniac. I 
sought to shout, but my voice was even weaker than 
it had been after I fell overboard. I have no power 
to describe my feelings whilst I waited to see what the 
brig would do. I cursed myself for not having kept a 
look-out, so that I might have had plenty of time to 
signal to her as she approached. If she abandoned me 
I knew I must perish, as every instant assured me that 
I had neither mental nor physical power to undergo 
another day and night without drink and without hope 
upon the island. 

On a sudden she hauled up the lee clew of her 
mainsail, boom-ended her studding sails, and put her 
helm over. I knew what this signified, and, clasping 
my hands, I looked up to God. 

Presently a boat was lowered and pulled towards the 
inland. I dropped over the side, tumbling down upon 
my nose in my weakness, and made with trembling legs 
to the beach, standing in my eagerness in the very curl 
of the wash there. There were three men in the boat 
and they eyed me as they rowed over their shoulders as 
if I had been a spectre. 

" Who are you, mate, and what country is this ? " 
exclaimed the man who pulled stroke, standing up to 
stretch his hand to me. 



EXTBAORDINAHY ADVENTUBE OF A CHIEF MATE 41 

I pointed to my throat, and gasped, " Water ! " 1 
could barely articulate. 

Nothing in this wide world moves sailors like a cry 
to them for water. In an instant the three men had 
dragged me into the boat, and were straining like horses 
at their oars, as they sent the boat flashing through the 
rippling water. We dashed alongside. 

" He's dying of thirst ! " was the cry. 

I was bundled on deck, the captain ran below, and 
returned with a small draught of wine and water. 

" Start with that," said he. ** You'll be fitter for a 
longer pull later on." 

The drink gave me back my voice ; yet for a while I 
could scarce speak, for the tears that swelled my heart. 

" Are there any more of ye ? " said the captain. 

I answered, " No." 

" But what land's this ? " he inquired. 

"An island uphove by an earthquake," said I. 

" Great thimder ! " he cried. " And what's that 
arrangement in shells and weeds a-top of it ? " 

"A vessel that's probably been three hundred years 
at the bottom," I answered. 

" The quake rose it, hey ? " 

*' Just as it is," said I. 

" Well, boil me," cried the worthy fellow, **if it don't 
seem too good to be true. Mr. Fletcher, trim sail, sir. 
Best shove along — shove along. Come, sir, step below 
with me for a rest and a bite, and give me your tale." 

A warily eaten meal with another sup of wine and 
water made me a new man. We sat below a long while, 
I telling my story, he making notes and talking of the 
credit he would get for bringing homo a report of a new 
country, when suddenly the mate put his head into the 
skylight. 



42 EXTSAOBDINABY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE. 

" Captain ! '' 

** Hillo ! " 

" The island's gone, sir." 

"What d'ye mean ? that we've sunk it ? " 

" No, by the Lord ; but that it's sunk itself." 

We ran on deck, and where the island should have 
been was all clear sea. 

The captain stared at the water, with his mouth wide 
open. 

" Nothing to report after all ! " he cried. 

" I saw it founder ! " exclaimed the mate. " I had 
my eye on it when it sank. I've seen some foundering 
in my day ; but this beats all my going a-fishing ! " 

** Well," said the captain to me, " we didn't come too 
soon, sir." 

I hid my face in my hands. 

The Susan Qray was the name of the brig that 
rescued me. The Hercules saw the first of the island, 
and the Susan Qray the last of it. Hence, as I said at 
the start, it was reported by two vessels only. 



THIRST I AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 

A PASSENGER'S STORY. 

It was the twentieth day of the calm — of a calm so 
breathless, so hushed, so death-like, that the like of it 
is unimaginable by the mind to whom the fancy of the 
ocean comes as a*vision of eternal restlessness. Day 
after day, for twenty days, had the vast plain of the 
deep spread steeping into the hot blue atmosphere of 
the horizon, staring np at the brassy heavens like a 
great eye, without the faintest stir of cat's-paw to tarnish 
it with a shadow, and without further life in it than a 
slow, long, sickly swell like the languishing heavings 
of a dying breast, upon which our brig rolled with 
horrible regularity, swaying with the punctuality of the 
pendulum-swing to and fro, to and fro, a dreary sweep 
of the white buttons of her trucks athwart the central 
pouring glory of the noontide sky, or across the hover- 
ing silver sheet of stars which whitened the indigo 
heavens from rim to rim when the last rusty tinge of 
sunset had melted out into the western gloom. 

We were bound to Kingston, Jamaica. 'Twas many 
years ago, when brigs of the sort I was aboard of were 
regular West Indian traders from the Thames, carrying 
passengers and cargo with packet-like regularity ; only 
that the passage that was sometimes made in five or six 



41 TEIBSTJ AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 

weeks very often ran into three and even into four 
months. The Pelican was the name of the ship I was 
in ; she was as proper a little brig as ever sight could 
desire to rest on; coppered to the bends with new 
sheathing that flung a sort of sunset into the water 
under her, when she lay at rest with light enough above 
to put a sheen into the metal; the bows of a clipper 
rising from knife-like sharpness at the forefoot into 
graceful breadth at the catheads, and the lines coming 
along like the sheer of a swan to the elliptical stem, 
with the right sort of moulded quarters for slipping 
through the two seas, which her speed in a breeze 
promised to make fixtures abaft, one on either side. 
She was rigged as few vessels of her kind nowadays are, 
her topgallant masts tapering into Jong, skysail poles, 
on which they would set "moon-sails," as they were 
called, shreds of shining white cloth, mere parings of 
the moon they looked, or rather as though they had 
been formed of the wings of the flying-fish, the daintiest 
imaginable spaces crowning each white spire, and 
making one think of a bit of cloud having been torn 
away by the reel of the mast and shaping itself upon 
that tiny yard, high up in the sky, as one followed the 
swelling fabric from the wide spread of courses and top- 
sails on to the tender narrowing of the topgallant sail, 
royal and skysail. 

I was the only passenger on board, though there was 
cabin accommodation for six or eight people. Our run 
after leaving the English Channel had been exceedingly 
good for some days. The captain was in high spirits ; 
'twas his first command of the brig, and he would talk 
to her as if she were his sweetheart, as she flashed 
through it in long floating plunges, flinging rainbows to 
the windward sun and snowstorms to leeward, with a 



THIRST J AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 45 

■ 

wake in to^ of her that swung seething with the lastre 
of white satin oyer the blue ridges till the fan-shaped 
end of it vanished in the far-off windy haze. Then on 
a sudden, some time before our stem had approached 
the polar verge of the trade-wind, the breeze shifted and 
came on to blow dead ahead, raising a lump of sea that 
struck the weather bow in shocks which thrilled through 
the very heart of the little ocean beauty, "With yards 
braced sharp up, reefs in the topsails, the jib and stay- 
sail forward dark to midway their height with the satura- 
tion of the brine, we reeled along, first on one tack then 
on another, staggering drunkenly upon the rushing surge, 
with masts aslope and shrieking rigging, and the yeasty 
spume alongside boiling up, with the leeward ** scends *' 
to the level of the topgallant rail. This was very well 
for a day or two ; but before long it grew sickening, and 
one loathed the sound of the wind as though it were a 
drunken sailor's voice howling blasphemies. The captain's 
face grew longer every day. At noon there were sights 
to be had punctually, but very little encouragement to 
be got out of them. 

" The Lord preserve us ! " the old fellow would cry, . 
"only two miles of westing in all them twenty-four 
hours ! Why, at this rate, 'twould be better to up keeleg, 
head for a Spanish port — to Cadiz, where all the hand- 
some girls be, and change our dollars into Madeirey and 
grapes, and so rest joyful till this here blowing weather ' 
changes its mind. Why, smite mj'' eyes ! if headway 
is to be starnway, it's about time for a man to coil 
down." 

Well, sometimes we'd get a little slant, the sea 
moderating with it, which enabled us to look up to our 
course within two or three points ; but for a whole six 
weeks, incredible as it may seem, were we so bothered, 



46 . THinST! AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 

confounded, repelled by head winds, so defeated in every 
little nimble effort of seamanship that our lively hearty 
of a skipper adventured, by the spite of the breeze that 
would again and again head us after we had gone 
about, as though it meant to wear the souls out of 
the crew by keeping them pulling and hauling at 
the braces day and night, that at the expiration of 
seven weeks we might still say that even should the 
wind shift and come on to blow fair for us, and keep us 
humming steadfastly throughout the rest of the passage, 
Jamaica still lay a good month and a half distant. 

Time wore on, and we continued shoving along as 
best we could, keeping our hopes polished by thoughts 
of the north-east trades. But the only breeze that blew 
from that quarter lasted but two days. For my part I 
don't believe it was the trade wind at all, not a breath 
from the fanning of a pinion of it. You would look 
aloft for the familiar trade cloud and see nothing but a 
piebald sky, mottled like the soap the washerwomen 
use, with suds enough below in the arch of every billow 
to make one appreciate the likeness, with a black curl 
of scud, perhaps, here and there, blowing across it, and 
a higher range of vapour trending westward, the wrong 
way, as one would suppose. 

Now, about this time the cook made a discovery. 
We were short of fresh water. God knows how the 
blunder had happened or who was responsible for it; 
but the casks in the hold told the truth, and when the 
supply came to be overhauled and gauged, it was dis- 
covered that if we were not to briefly perish of thirst all 
hands must be put forthwith upon the stingiest con- 
ceivable allowance. At this distance of time I could not 
swear to what it was, though I have some recollection 
of about a pannikin full a day for all purposes of wash- 



THIRST/ AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 47 

ing, cooking, and drinking, with a sullen hint that if our 
passage should he further delayed it might come to a 
thimhleful, with a thanksgiving to God even for that 
blessing. Of course we cast thirsty eyes up aloft in 
search of wet weather ; but though it occasionally rained 
on the horizon, the devil's luck was on the ship; not 
a drop fell to darken our white decks with a blot as big 
as a sixpence. I put my finger into the dew on the rail 
at night, but the taste was salt — salt with a dash of oil 
in it from the paint; for when we got into that dead 
and roasting calm the brig fell to blistering and scaling 
all over like a burnt body, with such a stink of hot paint 
in the air that i^ turned the very thirst in one into 
sickness. 

I was making the voyage merely to have a look at 
Jamaica ; had embarked without consulting people who 
might have given me a useful hint or two ; and, like a 
fool, had started very ill-provided with private stores. 
I had laid in a small stock of hams, conserves, a few 
pounds' worth of useless delicacies, with a quarter of a 
hencoop full of fowls, a dozen or so of brandy, and the 
like. What would I have given when that calm came 
to have converted the whole into beer? The ship's 
stock of drink, outside water, consisted of rum, of which 
the captain and mates drank freely, and which was 
served out rather too handsomely, I would sometimes 
think, to the sailors. But rum out of bond considerably 
above proof is not a liquor that cools the thirsty palate. 
The men mixed it with water with the idea of makifag 
the draught go further ; but there was so little water to 
put to the spirit that the dose, when it at all approached 
the proportions of a drink, was as fire; thirst was 
increased by it, and the men ended in cursing it, one or 
two of them only laying aft when grog was "piped." 



48 TEIBSTI AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 

We looked out for ships, hoping to get help in that way; 
but though we sighted several sail during our stormier 
progress, the high sea put even mere hailing out of 
question, and when the dead calm fell, nothing swam 
into the stagnant circle in whose heart our brig lay like 
the Ancient Mariner's rotting ship. 

That calm made a wild disappointment for us. We 
had floated into it on the breath of a light breeze with 
a huddle of white clouds in the quarter] whence the 
draught came; and there was a prismatic tinge upon 
their clustering brows that promised to fling some 
weight into the breeze presently; instead of which 
the sea came stealing out from them into glass, with 
the setting sun striking a fierce smoky crimson into the 
vapour that seemed to make their bellies black as 
thunder with the reddening of their heads; and when 
the western light had died out into the indigo of the 
night the clouds were gone, and there was not a rag of 
vapour of the size of a man's hand anywhere about, as 
you saw by the stars, which went down in a sort of 
showering of silver, as it seemed, to the very edge of the 
sea that brimmed to the sky, black and gleaming as the 
surface of an ebony table. Well, of course, one went on 
living in hope ; but I can tell you that at the end of the 
first week of this deadness there was never an eye that 
looked over the side at the blue tranquillity, with the 
blinding dazzle tremorless in its heart under the sun, 
without coming away from the sight with as scared and 
wild an expression in it as if it had caught a glimpse of 
Death's own skeleton patiently floating with his mirth- 
less grin close aboard of us. 

In those twenty days we slided — though God knows 
how ! for I never remember so much as the waft of a 
breath of air throughout the time — fifteen miles to the 



THIRST! AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 49 

Bonthward: as I live to write it! Fifteen miles only. 
Think of it— in twenty days! Our rigging grew grey 
with the heat and dryness, the sun burnt so fiercely that 
if you let your hand lie for the space of a breath upon 
the black woodwork, or upon such brass ornamentation 
as the binnacle-hood or the shield atop of the capstan, 
you raised a blister for yourself that gave you pain for 
days. So hot was the deck that the brig seemed full 
of fire, and if ever a man was rash enough to spring 
through the scuttle with his feet unshod he'd howl out 
to the burning of his toes as though he had stepped into 
a kettle of boiling pitch. We had a bit of an awning 
stretched aft, but it did nothing toward cooling the 
cabin. In fact it was impossible to exist below. It was 
not only the roasting atmosphere : the cockroaches 
blackened the beams ; the place was full of rats besides ; 
and then there was that sickening, heart-subduing 
eternity of rolling with every bulkhead creaking, with 
every separate piece of cargo in the hold delivering 
a note of its own, the regular clank, clank of doors 
jerking upon their hooks along with the drowning 
sobbings of the swell as it came flushing to the bends. 
The stuff that the qook flung overboard at noon one day 
was close alongside at noon the next day. We held 
a bottle in view for a week. I'd take it for a shark's 
fin sometimes, guessing that from the wet flash it would 
give ; holding it impossible that the same object could 
linger so long at sea within so narrow a sphere ; but it 
punctually proved the bottle of yesterday, and of the 
preceding days, until in a sudden fit of sheer disgust 
and rage at the recurrence of that signal of our miser- 
able stagnation, I let drive at it with my pistol, and at 
the third shot shivered the glass and down it went. 
It was the harder for the men, for their provisions 



50 THIRST! AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 

were of a kind to breed thirst — salt beef sparkling with 
brine from the tierce and boiled in salt water ; dark and 
clammy pudding as acrid as the skimming of slush from 
the galley coppers could render it ; saline pork, the 
mere measly hue of which sent the imagination ashore 
to the can of frothing beer, or better yet, to the crystal 
of spring-water cold from the leaf-shadowed rocks. The 
captain did his best to deal with this difficulty by giving 
the poor fellows fresh messes. There was very little to 
eat on board, however, that was sweet. Indeed, our 
own fare aft was as briny as the forecastle victuals, 
only that it was of better quality, with a boiled or roast 
fowl to vary it. Our condition grew horribly serious. 
When the twentieth day came there was scarce fresh 
water enough in the vessel to hold out for another week, 
whilst a fly might have waded through every sailor's 
daily allowance of it. No man had the art of distilling 
water, and maybe for that reason it was never thought 
of. It was idle to look around for a sail in so dead 
a calm. There were very few steamers afloat in those 
distant times, and the fabrics driven by wheels made for 
the Cape rather than these waters. And indeed no one 
then had more idea of sighting a steamship than of 
beholding the great sea-serpent. ' 

Well, the morning of the twentieth day broke. The 
sea was the same surface of glass it had been for nigh 
hand three weeks; but it was noticed by us, with a 
fluttering of hope in every man's heart, that the sun 
rose out of several long streaks of rosy cloud, a novelty 
inliim, for it had been his custom to spring like a huge 
pink ball from behind the water line. Though his light 
was as tingling as of old, we observed that the radiance 
lacked its wonted brilliant dazzle. There was something 
of mistiness in it, and the wake of him came sallowly, 



TEIB8TI AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 51 

in a narrow band, to the brig's side, sulkily riding the 
roll of the swell that ran right at him. Shortly after 
eleven in the forenoon one saw what this meant by the 
darkening of the blue at the horizon away down in the 
north-west quarter ; and ere eight bells were struck our 
masts were aslant to a pleasant wind, buzzing blue and 
hot into every cloth that the sailors could pile upon the 
vessel. 

The captain had scarce brought his sextant away 
from his eye when a seaman, high aloft on the 
foretopgallant yard, with his figure showing black to 
the misty blaze of the sun as he swung from the tie, 
peering with shaded eyes under the foot of the royal, 
sent down an eager cry of *' Sail on the starboard bow ! '* 
and within a quarter of an hour the gleam of her, like 
the tip of a seabird*s pinion, was visible from the deck, 
steady in the same direction, proving that she was 
either heading our way or that we were overhauliag 
her. We were, every man of us, mad for the sight of 
a vessel, and we watched that pearl-like shape as one 
may say with dying eyes. It was speedily apparent, 
however, that she was standing towards us ; she rose 
fast, showing in the lenses of the telescope as a fine 
schooner hauling the wind, lying down to the breeze in a 
manner to prove that she was light, and growing with 
such swiftness as was ample warrant of a clipper's heels. 

"An American," said the captain to me, "or I am 
much mistaken." 

"Why do you think so ? " said L 

"Because of the sheen of her canvas," said he; 
"there's cotton enough in it for a hundred women's 
gowns. Pray Almighty Providence she be plentifully 
stocked with fresh water." 

It was not long before we had a sight of her flag 



52 THIRST! AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 

blowing from the foretopmast head, that we might see 
it clearly; the stripes and stars, as our captain had 
anticipated ! but the stars upside down, converting the 
beautiful banner into a signal of distress. 

" So much the better,'' cried our skipper, with the 
selfishness of misery. " She'll be sure to be the more 
willing to help us if we are able to help hor. But what 
ails her? Sickness, a skulking mutineer or two, or 
something that a cask of beef may remedy?" he 
chuckled, following on with a cry to the helmsman, 
" Nothing off, nothing off !" .. • 

She was as fine a schooner as ever breasted the blue 
surge ; of the old Baltimore clipper type, black and 
long, with a high bronzing of metal, and a noble flight 
of sea wings rising to the royal at the fore. You saw 
the white water pulsing at her bows as she came along, 
shearing through it like a knife through satin, with 
a hurry of light in her glossy sides that seemed rever- 
berated to the very height of her in the tremulous 
pulling of her star-spangled bunting. Our captain was 
in the act, as I gathered from the looks of him and the 
movement of his lips, to order the brig's way to be 
arrested by bringing the topsail to the mast, when he 
was stopped by the schooner suddenly going about, 
then filling on the starboard tack with her square sails 
clewing up, her peak drooping, her main tack in the 
act of being triced aloft, the fore and aft sails slowly 
descending, and her head falling off so as to close us. 

**Well," said the skipper, plunging his hands into 
his pockets, with the surprised rounding of his eyes 
lengthening out into their old grey seawardly look, 
** 'twill save us the bother of handling the braces. It is 
a manoeuvre to tell a man that she must be put to it 
though," 



TEIRST! AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 53 

She was so fleet a sailer, you saw, even half denuded 
as she was of her canvas, whilst we on the other hand 
had not started a stitch, that she must snug down yet 
if we were to overhaul her. To my fancy she had the 
look of a slaver, but with no ebony cargo in her now. 
She was flying light indeed, and travelled under her 
reduced canvas softly and nimbly as a sleigh over the 
frisky ripplings of the water. 

We picked her up slowly, gradually driving down 
upon her, with features of her stealing out one by one : 
the staring white letters of her name, Marie Rich- 
mond, across her counter, a long-legged fellow in 
flowing white trousers, a jacket, and a hat like a 
planter's standing in the main rigging ready to hail 
us ; a negro at the long sweep of tiller frequently turn- 
ing his chin upon his shoulder to watch us coming, 
and a crowd of mopping and mowing heads along the 
rail, dingy-skinned for the most part, a few of them 
blacks and as picturesque as a pirate's company of 
rascals, with their many-coloured apparel of red cap, * 
white straw hat, blue shirt, and the like. Our captain 
got upon the rail ready to speak the stranger. We were 
likely to come within a biscuit toss of her through her 
manoeuvring ; for whilst we had kept our helm amidships 
throughout, there had been a constant yawing off in her 
towards us, and you would have almost thought that she 
meant to lay us aboard. The schooner hailed us first. 

" Ho, the brig ahoy ! " 

*' Hillo," sang back the captain. 

" We're nigh all hands dead men here for the want 
of a drink. For God's sake spare us a small supply of 
fresh water ! The last drop was drained out yesterday, 
as the Lord's my witness. I'll send a boat ! I'll send 
a boat! " 



54 THIRST! AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 

One saw now how wild was the look in thp faces 
clustered along the schooner's rail. As for the fellow 
who had hailed us, his voice came along with as husky 
a note as a parrot's, and the mere hearing of him was a 
torment in its way. There was a stir among the men 
as though they would get their boat over. Our captain 
instantly responded — 

** I'm sorry, I'm sorry. We've scarce got water 
ourselves to last us another week, and an eggshellful a 
man at that." 

"By God, but you must share it with us!" cried 
the other. 

" No," shouted our captain ; " all other stores we 
have you're welcome to a supply from. We can help 
ye to beef, to rum, to molasses — but the little drop of 
water we have we must keep for our life's sake." 

A husky voice from the men at the schooner's side 
yelled out with the tone of a scream in it, *' We're 
dying of thirst. Ye will share what ye have with us 
for the sake of Jesus ! " 

*Twas horrible to hear them and to watch them, 
to feel our helplessness in the face of their anguish; 
and our own disappointment, too, was bitterly acute, for 
want of water was the last thought that would have 
been put into our head by the sight of the inverted 
stripes and stars. 

** Stranger ! " cried the fellow in the main rigging, 
swinging out from the grip of one hand whilst he put 
the other to his mouth to help carry his voice. " We're 
dying men aboard this craft, and detarmined for that 
reason ; and, so help us Hell 1 if you don't make your 
stock of fresh water yield us a drink all round, we'll 
board ye and take it for ourselves." 

At this threat our sailors — all hands, as you will 



TniBSTI AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 55 

believe, were on deck — gathered themselves together as 
with a sort of instinct, with a quick look round for 
handspikes, or whatever else might be useful in their 
fists, one or two of them whipping off their jackets on 
the spot, whilst I saw another roll his cuffs up and spit 
into his palms. There were twelve of us, all told, and 
spme sixteen or eighteen of the schooner's company, 
several of them negroes, as I have said, with a few 
half-bloods, the rest of them American seamen. 

Our captain bawled back, " Sorry it's out of our 
power to sarve ye. Give us no threats. We're heartily 
consamed, heartily consarned. But what can't be done 
wo7i't be done." 

With that he dismounted from the rail, motioning 
to the fellow at the wheel to keep the brig off a little. 
I overhung the bulwarks, looking at the schooner. For 
my part I never for a moment dreamt that her skipper, 
as I took the fellow in the rigging to be, was in earnest 
in threatening to board us. 'Twas a mere idle stroke 
of despair in him, I thought ; and was prepared now to 
see him sheer off, for our captain, by dropping from the 
rail, accentuated his resolution not to help him; and, 
besides, there had been a sorrow and an honesty in his 
voice that should have satisfied every man aboard the 
schooner that he had told nothing but sheer truth, cruel 
as it was, in speaking of our water stock. But, of a 
sudden, the long-legged man in the rigging, after looking 
on idly for a moment or two, dropped like a marline 
spike to the deck and sang out an order, the purport of 
which I could not gather. The crew left the rail in 
a rush, some tailing on to the jib halliards, some hauling 
down the tack of the mainsail. Their movements were 
full of breathless hurry, but their intentions were now 
apparent. No sooner had they made and trimmed sail 



56 THinST! AN OCEAN INCIDENT, 

for the manoeuvre that was to follow, than they ran 
ahout seeking objects with which to arm themselves, 
some whipping out iron belaying pins, others flashing 
out the deadlier sheath-knife, others snatching the 
stretchers out of Hhe boats ; the schooner meanwhile 
settling down upon our quarter with a gradual sheering 
up toward us that would bring her rubbing her sides 
against ours in a few minutes. 

Our captain stared bewildered at the craft for a 
moment, then bawled to the mate : ** Mr. Moody, we 
are without small arms. Let the men collect whatever 
they can fight best with. We must prevent those chaps 
from boarding, or we're dead men. Watch where she 
means to throw her people and gather the hands about 
the place ready to resist them." So saying he bundled 
in red-hot haste below, and almost instantly reappeared 
bearing in his hand a great blunderbuss with a muzzle 
resembling the mouth of a bell. He bowled right aft 
on his rounded shanks, and sprang to the grating abaft 
the wheel, holding the weapon high in the air that all 
might see what he grasped. " Captain," he shouted, 
" we've done you no ill ; we're as sorry for you as if you 
were ourselves, and God knows we'd sarve you if we 
could, speaking our tongue as ye do and having our 
blood in ye. But we must stand first in this murdering 
business. We've got not a drop of water to spare, and 
what we have we mean to keep; so stand by! the first 
man as attempts to put his foot upon this here brig I'll 
shoot dead.*' 

He sprang off the grating and then stood looking on 
and waiting, gripping his blunderbuss with both hands, 
with the muzzle of it grinning a little beyond the rail. 
A roar full of defiance and despair swept from the 
schooner's decks in response to his words. The swift 



THIRST I AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 67 

and beautiful vessel, easy as her canvas was, crept 
down upon us at the pace of two feet to our one. I saw 
her long tapering jibboom come slowly sliding past our 
quarter, and then, as it was no time now for mere 
staring only, I pulled a heavy iron pin out of the rail, 
and joined the sailors, who stood grouped along close to 
the main rigging. The height of the bulwarks prevented 
me from seeing; but I presently heard a loud shout 
alongside, then saw our captain take aim with his 
blunderbuss ; but the powder merely flashed in the pan. 
It was the best thing that could have happened, I 
thought even at that moment, as I saw him bring his 
foot with a heavy stamp upon deck, and catch up his 
weapon by the barrel with a preliminary whirl of it 
round his head as he approached us. There was a 
short pause, a dead silence, indeed, whilst you could 
have counted ten, with nothing to break it but the brook- 
like streaming sounds of water murmuring behind the 
two gliding vessels ; then followed a hurricane of wild 
shouts. In a trice the Yankees were aboard us, tum- 
bling pell-mell upon our men, and striking to right and 
left with the desperation of madmen. We were not 
only too few for them; their rage of thirst converted 
them into veritable demons. Our decks were soon as 
bloody as if the conflict had been an action between two 
men of war. Here and there lay a motionless figure. 
There were constant shouts of " Show jis the water ! 
Show us the water ! We don't want your lives ! We 
want the water only ! " 

I hit out with the others, and have a clear recol- 
lection of saving my head from a blow that might have 
crushed it, by letting drive at the uplifted arm with such 
force that the fellow let fall his handspike with a howl 
of suffering as he sprang at me. I* dodged him and 



58 THinST/ AN OCEAN INCIDENT. 

m 

slipped, and in falling struck the back of my head 
against the coaming of the main hatch with a violence 
that stunned me. How long I lay insensible I don't 
know. By the time my consciousness returned the 
Yankees had done their work, beaten half our men into 
the forecastle, disabled most of the rest, broached our 
last water cask and drained it ! and were now returned 
to their own vessel, carrying their wounded with them. 
Some of our fellows were badly hurt, though not 
dangerously so ; but their wounds were of a nature to 
have made our brig, without fresh water, a very hell of 
suffering, had it not been for our happily sighting next 
morning a large sail, which proved a French sloop of 
war homeward bound, whose captain, on hearing our 
story, supplied us with water enough to last us for the 
rest of the passage. That the Marie Richmond may 
have met with similar good fortune, I heartily hope, 
spite of the usage her people gave us. 

The thing looks dim with time as I turn my eyes 
back, yet though not half a century old it will be one 
of the freshest of all the memories my mind preserves 
down to the time of my death* To show the whole 
horrors of it one wants a big canvas. The Lord pre- 
serve us ! to think now of making the voyage to Jamaica 
in a little brig ! 



PICTURES AT SEA. 

Once, in the Bay of Bengal, I witnessed from the deck 
of a ship naimed the Hougoumont, a sight the like of 
-which, had I read a description of it,- 1 should have 
believed impossible in nature. The weather had been 
gloomy and sullen throughout the day ; the swell was a 
sickly jumble of sombre green folds sulkily shouldering 
one another as they ran, and I noticed that they like- 
wise moved very sluggishly as oil might, or water thick 
with ooze. A light air slipped from one swinging brow 
to another ; but it had not weight enough to steady the 
canvas, and the ship rolled dismally, buryii^g her sides 
with a regular see-sawing of the channels-lifted foaming; 
whilst the blows of the sails against the masts sent 
blasts of noise, like the explosions of nine-pounders, 
vibrating through the dusky air. 

The look of the sky was more menacing than the 
warnings of the glass, low as the mercury stood. That 
a hurricane was not far off was not to be doubted ; but 
we believed ourselves to be on the southern verge of it, 
and that we should, therefore, escape the central rage, 
though it was more than probable that we should 
encounter the lighter tempest flying off the black wing 
of the storm fiend as he passed. At five o'clock in the 
afternoon, though the sun then stood many degrees 
above the horizon, it was so dark that the men had to 



CO PICTURES AT SEA. 

feel about for the ropes. The ship having been stripped 
of her canvas, the noises aloft were small and weak, 
whilst the straining sounds from bulkheads and strong 
fastenings in the cabins and hold were so muJB3ed by 
battened hatches and tarpaulined skylights that they 
scarcely caught the ear. The dismaying influence of 
the dark, still shadow on high showed strongly in the 
glimmering faces of the men. I was but a lad at the 
time and making my second voyage, and so was com- 
paratively unseasoned; and I was awed and alarmed 
by this sullen gloom, whose preternatural complexion 
made you think of having floated into some sunless 
world of waters, over which no star ever sparkled, over 
whose circle of indigo no moon ever lifted a crimson 
brow, and whose atmosphere was to blacken yet as the 
deeper solitudes were penetrated. One yearned for a 
flash of lightning, for the growl of distant thunder, for 
any quality of the familiar to neutralize the superstitious 
fears inspired by this afternoon darkness, imperturbably 
tincturing its substance into the raven hue of midnight. 
We spoke in whispers. The mate receiving his orders 
from the captain, who delivered them in a low voice, 
would approach the men close before repeating them, 
as though he durst not break the stillness by bawling. 
There was an inconsolable sobbing of water alongside, 
and at long intervals, audible only at moments when 
the breathless hang of the ship upon the slope of some 
liquid brow left the fabric death-like, you heard a sort 
of moaning noise in the air, vague and indeterminable, 
echoes no doubt from the field of battle that was yet 
leagues distant. 

At eight o'clock it was pitch dark. The atmosphere 
was now breathless. Though I had been on deck since 
six, I had not witnessed once in any quarter of the 



PICTURES AT SEA. 61 

horizon the faintest glare of lightning. A dim and 
rnsty tinge of red had filtered into the west when the 
sun set ; but the ugly illumination faded quickly. I 
went below to turn in, but finding that others of the 
watch I belonged to remained on deck I returned, and 
leaning over the poop-raU. stood Btraining my eyes 
against the amazing blindness of the night, in vain 
search of any break of radiance upon the sea-line. The 
confused swell rolled to the ship in a huddle of liquid 
blocks of blackness, amid which large rich clouds of 
phosphor flashed with the mild play of sheet lightning. 
On a sudden, a young midshipman who was standing 
near bade me, in a soft voice, look right astern. The 
ship's head lay about west-south-west, and over the 
taffrail in the ebon void there I witnessed a very delicate 
hectic, a kind of pinkish tinge, sifting through the black- 
ness. It resembled the slow floating upwards of a pro- 
digious body of red smoke, or of smoke coloured with 
the flames of a continent on fire immeasurably distant. 
Its space on the horizon when first viewed might be 
measured by the breadth of our taffrail ; but in a short 
time it had rolled along past either quarter till it occu- 
pied the whole of the sea-line astern, meanwhile con- 
tinually ascending as though formed of a substance 
apart from the clouds ; and it grew clearer and brighter 
as its surface enlarged, and presently the whole of the 
eastern and southern sky was aglow with it. There is 
no colour or combination of colours that I am acquainted 
with by which I should be able to define the astonishing 
complexion of this light. I must speak of it as pink, 
though a painter would not thus express it. Its western- 
most verge did not extend beyond our mastheads; 
nevertheless the radiance cast a phantasmal illumina- 
tion upon the black sky down to the confines of the 
5 



69 FICTUBES AT SEA 

ocean, and the Binuous sea-line was plain the whole 
horizon round, as though limned with a trembling sweep 
of a brush dipped in India ink. 

In my brief eight years of seafaring life I have seen 
the ships I was in coloured by some strange, many 
lovely, and a few terrifying, lights ; but the like of this 
midnight lustre, crimsoning the sooty heavens without 
revealing a single break amid the compacted masses 
of vapour under which it rolled, I had never beheld 
before, I have never beheld since, and to be plain — 
comprehending its cyclonic significance — I never wish 
to behold again. The mysterious magical light was 
upon the sails, upon the decks, upon the faces and forms 
of the crew ; but the sea lay black as thunder under it ; 
everything was shadowless in it ; nothing cast an image. 
I extended my arm over the white top of a hencoop, but 
the limb threw no reflection. The radiance was circum- 
ambient, encompassing as mist is, but clear as glass. 
Looking upward I could see the vane at the royal-mast- 
head standing like a black streak in the mystic sheen, 
and to the very flying jibboom end the ship floated as 
plain to the gaze as ever she could have been submitted 
by the full moon riding high. 

What was the hidden luminary that shed this light ? 
Whence arose this effulgent midnight mist ? The illu- 
mination might have passed for the setting of the sun, 
going down on the wrong side of the world. It was an 
atmospheric effect, beautiful, thrilling, marvellous, and 
terrifying too. Many, I doubt not, have witnessed t}ie 
same spectacle under the heights in which that pale 
strange shining happened. It was enough to make all 
hands of us suppose that a tempest of cyclonic force would 
burst upon us soon, and when in about half an hour 
the lustre, after waning into a tarnished orange, died out 



PICTURES AT SEA, 63 

into impenetrable blackness, we stood by ready for what 
we made sure was to follow. It blew, indeed, though 
not with hurricane power. There was so much light- 
ning for fifteen or twenty minutes that the sky seemed 
filled with yellow and violet darts writhing their arrowy 
lengths like serpents as they vanished in the sea that 
flashed back whole sheets of fire to the lancing of the 
levin brands. The weather then grew commonplace 
enough, plenty of wet, a high foaming sea, the ship 
hove to under storm-trysail plunging and labouring 
with screaming rigging, an ashen dawn, with sulphur- 
coloured scud blowing up from the horizon, like smoke 
from the chimneys of a city of factories ; and then at 
noon a fine day, a roasting sun overhead, and the vessel 
under fast-drying canvas, lazily stemming the high 
swell left by the gale. 

So much for one atmospheric effect of an inter- 
tropical storm. One turns willingly to the gentle 
oceanic picture. As on shore so at sea; it is out of 
moonlight that you obtain the daintiest and most fairy- 
like effects. What is there tenderer in all nature than 
the spectacle of moon-rise on the ocean when the orb, 
standing hidden a minute or two behind some delicate 
line of vapour, whose extremities her beams colour to 
the aspect of lunar rainbows, sheds a silver streak of icy 
light upon the black line of the seaboard, until it looks 
like liquid ivory in the act of arching over in a gush of 
brilliant whiteness, as froth from the head of a breaker ? 
I think one misses the best of the moonlight effects 
when on -board a steamer. There is little or nothing 
in the fabric, for ever storming along, for the crystal 
beam to beautify. The structure, vibrating to the 
thunder of her engines, rushes onwards too swiftly for 
glorification by the cold rays of the bland satellite. It 



64 PICTUBE8 AT SEA. 

is from tho deck of the sailing ship that you command 
in perfection the wonders and splendours of the oceanic 
amphitheatre; witness in such wise, that your heart 
receives into it the whole spirit of the scenic grandeurs 
of that mighty stage ; the glowing galleries of the west ; 
the burning pavilions into which the sun retires; the 
cloud-pinion smitten into mild glory by Venus blazing 
jewel-like in a sphere of light, in which the adjacent 
stars are hidden as by moonshine ; the gathering of 
the storm-cloud of a glassy and livid brow, with the 
restless lifting of the waters to its purple shadow ; the 
flight of the falling body of fire, bursting into a storm 
of sparks, as it seems to strike the dark and distant sea- 
line over which a few stars are peeping, like eyes of 
gigantic shapes, whose shadowy forms the imagination 
will not find it hard to distinguish. 

A sailing ship moving quietly onwards, or lying rest- 
fully in the heart of a calm, offers a surface upon which 
the magic brushes of the moon will paint a hundred lovely 
things. The clear, sharp shadows resemble jet inlaid 
upon the ivory of the planks. The spaces of splendour 
upon the yards between the black dyes, wrought by the 
interception of the reflection of the end of a boom, or 
the clew of a sail, are like bands of shining silver. There 
is nothing fairer than the spectacle of a sleeping ship 
with her canvas hanging silent from the yards, stealing 
out to the light of the moon that soars sparkling as if 
wet from the sea. The white glory gushes veil-like to 
the trucks high aloft in the clear obscure, and sinks 
wanly from sail to sail until the fabric, that a little while 
before was but a deeper shade upon the evening dusk, 
gleams out into an inexpressible loveliness of phantom 
form and airy substance. Stars bright as Coleridge's 
tiny sun amid the branches sparkle in brass and glass ; 



PICTUMES AT SEA. 65 

and along the rails there is a diamond twinkling of dew, 
and the sheen upon the canvas seems to overflow the 
bolt-ropes and frame the irradiated spaces with a slender 
atmosphere of light, delicate as mist. To the small sway- 
ing of the vessel the moonshine on her decks flows like 
running rivulets of quicksilver ; the shadows alternate 
with the brightness, and the reflected filigree of the 
rigging crawling to the swing of the structm'e makes one 
think of the thin boughs of a leafless tree stirred by the 
wind against some snow-clad rise. 

One moonlight effect I recall with delight. It was 
a dark, tropical evening ; there was a light air blowing, 
of sufficient weight to keep the sails asleep, and a long 
troubled swell was heaving from the north. The stars 
shone very clearly ; but the night lay dark upon the 
ocean, and you only knew where the sea-line was by 
observing where the luminaries ceased to shine. On a 
sudden a pale greenish hue in the east announced the 
rising of the moon. The rugged horizon ran in ink 
against that lunar dawn, and as the orb lifted her 
brilliant disk clear of the ebon welter, the outline of a 
sailing ship showed to the right of her. Soon she had 
climbed right over l^he vessel; her glorious wake ran 
fan-like in a turbulent surface of silver far along the 
heaving waters ; and in the middle of this radiant river 
sailed the ship ; the wind right astern of her ; her 
yards square ; studding sails out on both sides ; but 
all of the deepest dye of blackness. There is nothing 
in language to convey this picture — to express this 
vision, rather : I see it now — the stately rolling of the 
dark pyramids of cloths, an occasional flash of white 
fire from her side or decks, and the mild glory over 
her stern showing in arches of silver under the curves 
of her sails. As she passed out of the moon's reflec- 



66 PICTUHES AT SEA. 

tion she grew pale, mist-like, elusive. It is indeed the 
atmospheric effects of the sea, which make it so rich 
in symholism. The deep is eternity materialized, so 
to speak. I always regard the ocean as a form of 
infinity rendered compassahle to human intelligence 
by an apparition of confines which yet do not bound 
it. It is certain that we find in it our most pregnant 
imagery of life and death. The picture of the ship I 
have just written about abounded in human significance, 
the full force of which you would have understood had 
you watched the stately, spacious-winged fabric drawing 
out from the throbbing and palpitating river of silver 
moonlight, passing in spectral pallor, and vanishing 
among the folds of the liquid dusk astern. It was some- 
thing to accept as an illustration of that form of unreality, 
which the poet indicates in speaking of life as a dream 
between a sleep and a sleep. But enough of such 
moralizing. 

A fine effect is often produced by a conflict of moon- 
light and lightning, I witnessed a magnificent scene of 
this kind in the Indian Ocean, the island of Amsterdam in 
sight on the starboard quarter. There was a full moon 
in the north, and in the south hung a vast bank of clouds 
charged with fire and thunder. The early gusts of this 
electric storm broke away great wings of vapour from 
the shoulder of the main body, and sent them speeding 
athwart the moon. The shining of the luminary was 
ghastly, rendered so by the alternations of her own light, 
darting wildly over the edge of the driven clouds, with 
the quick dazzle of the southern flashes. Her beams 
seemed to be coloured by the electric leapings. It was 
the eye, of course, that carried the reflection of the blue 
and sun-bright darts to the northern illumination ; but 
the effect was as though the lightning struck its own 



PICTURES AT SEA. 67 

hellish quality into the fabric of the silver beams, as 
they fell from the rims of the flying clouds. The com- 
bined illumination put a new and monstrous face upon 
the ocean. It made you think of a dead sea, com- 
plexioned to a very mockery of vitality by the light of 
such flames as those from which Milton's Fiend rose to 
steer his flight to dry land. 

The effects of lightning upon the ocean are full of 
dramatic surprises. Moonlight is all sweetness and 
softness and blandness, but the revelations of the 
electric dart are startling, with something of a tragic 
nature in them. I was once becalmed in highly phos- 
phorescent waters, but the surface was so still that the 
few gleams visible in the dark profound were faint as 
the reflection of a star riding upon the heave of the 
hidden swell. A cloud gathered overhead, and its sooty 
belly seemed to lean for support upon our scarcely 
swaying trucks. Suddenly it rained. One should spend 
some months in Jamaica to understand the meaning of 
such a "shower" as this. In a few moments our 
decks were half full of water, the scuppers sobbing 
madly; the roaring of the rain and hail smiting the 
ocean drowned all other sounds. The sea was so phos- 
phorescent that a piece of wood dropped overboard 
chipped out fire as though it had burst into flames. 
Judge then of the effect of that Niagara fall of rain 
and hail! The ocean was flashed up into a plain of 
fire. It swept sparkling in one vast incandescent 
sheet to its limits, dimming into sickly sulphur as it 
approached the horizon. You might suppose that such 
an illumination as this would have revealed anything 
afloat upon it ; but though I took a long look round, being 
deeply impressed by this sudden, wonderful burning of 
the ocean, I saw nothing ; tiU all at once the darkness 



68 PICTURES AT SEA. 

was split by a flash of lightning that leapt from the 
clouds away over our foreyardarm and shot into the 
water, as it seemed to me, a league distant on our star- 
board quarter, and then to this mighty flare there 
sprang out upon the view a large ship, well within a 
mile of us, snugged down to her topsails. The sight 
made me catch my breath for an instant, for the wonder 
of it lay in her having been invisible until the lightning 
threw her up, so bright was the water with the lashing 
of the rain. One waited for a second flash to make 
sure ; and I dare say, had she foundered before it came, 
there would not have been wanting people amongst us 
to swear that they had seen the Phantom Ship. 

Indeed, it is quite possible that that grand old legend 
had its origin in some atmospheric effect due to light- 
ning, moonshine, or fog. I have sometimes at sea, but 
more often in our narrow waters, watched a ship for 
a few moments, removed my gaze, and thinking of her 
presently, looked for her again and found her gone. 
This is one of those mysterious disappearances with 
which all seamen are acquainted. The evanishment, 
however, grows more perplexing when, after searching 
for the vessel, and believing her to be gone for good, 
you look for her again later on and find her almost in 
the same place. A thing of this kind would have been 
accepted by the early mariner as a miracle. He would 
have come home with a yarn about it as long as his 
arm, and so have fired the first poetically-minded 
wedding guest he could constrain with his eye with 
visions and fancies of a spectral ship. Be this as it 
will, disappearances and reappearances of this kind can 
be due to nothing but the subtle and imperceptible 
gathering of haze about the object. Mist will often 
take its complexion from the atmosphere. I have seen 



PICTURES AT SEA, 60 

a bank of haze of so sky-like an azare that, but for the 
curvature of the sea-line under it, caused by the deflec- 
tive sweep of its base, I should have accepted it as pure 
blue air. White mists also of a slightly opaline tincture 
corresponding to perfection with the hue of the heavens 
beyond, I have detected only by the apparent depression 
of the horizon under them. A ship may be in the act 
of piercing one of these elusive veils with her flying 
jibboom when you first catch sight of her. She is as 
plain in your sight as your own vessel ; yet when you 
seek her a minute after, she has vanished, and there is 
nothing in^the sombre or sunny texture of the stuff she 
has entered to persuade you that what you are viewing 
is not the same brown or cerulean sky that stands over 
and on either hand of it. 

To the mariner the fog is about the most obnoxious 
of all the conditions of his vocation. He is not likely io 
understand me, then> when I speak of its beauties; yet I 
must assure him, nevertheless, that many lovely atmo- 
spheric and other effects are produced on the waters by 
those luminous, enfolding bodies of vapour, the silence 
of whose white caverns is violated, in these scientific 
times, by the horrible braying of the steam-horn and 
the terrified fluttering of the engine-room bell. The 
kind of fog I have in my mind is the snow-like body of 
vapour, sometimes not very much taller than the Folke- 
stone cliffs, sometimes so low-lying, indeed, that you may 
see the lofty spars of a big ship forking out of it into 
the blue air and bright sunshine, when the rest of the 
structure is as absolutely hidden as an object rolled up 
in wool. As a rule, very little wind accompanies these 
appearances. The mass of delicate, smoke-like, spark- 
ling particles slides along softly, and it is therefore slow 
and tender in its revelations, and it submits nothing 



70 PICTURES AT SEA, 

which the manner of its discovery does not render 
beautiful. A man standing on the deck of a ship, in the 
heart of a soft and gleaming thickness, may not be able 
to see the mainmast from the distance of the wheel- 
The silence is peculiar, there is a certain quality of 
oppressiveness in it; nor is this wholly fanciful, for 
though there be a deep hush on the sea, yet, when you 
emerge into clear air, the difference between the stillness 
you have quitted and that which you have entered is 
instantly perceptible. Presently there is a little flaw, 
a chasm opens in the blind and luminous body of 
whiteness ; the space of water, that glances like steel 
around the ship, enlarges its narrow horizon ; there is 
a general brightening of light, though all the forward 
part of the ship is still hidden in the smother, and the 
only mast you can see looks as if it were sawed off 
a few., feet above the deck. If the coast be nigh, or 
ships be at hand, there will happen now a slow stealing 
out of objects, and the sight is one which I think every 
man who has seen it will recall with admiration. Off 
Dover a ship I was aboard of sailed into such a fog as 
I am describing, and lay without motion for some hours 
in the midst of it. Any trickle of tide there may have 
been kept company with the vapour. There was no air, 
and the water came out of the thickness to the bends 
with the polish and gleam of oil. There was nothing 
to break the quiet but the distant, faint thunder of the 
wash of surf, or sometimes the remote tinkling of a 
ship's bell, or the rattle of a little winch, in some nearer 
craft, trembling upon the ear like the sound of musketry. 
Presently there was a movement of wind, and as the soft 
fingers of the draught of air tenderly drew aside the 
curtains of the mist, the pictures offered were a series 
of beautiful surprises. All about us stood the white 



PICTUBE8 AT SEA. 71 

fog upon the sea in elbows and points, in seams, ravines, 
and dej&les, like to the scarred and precipitous front of 
chalk cliffs; and now there would ooze out a little 
smack, whose shadow within the vapour held you 
speculating till the sunshine smote it into the pro- 
portions and colour of some cutter or lugger-rigged 
craft, with reddish mainsail gently swaying and a 
sou'-wester or two over tJie rail ; and now as the snow- 
like thickness was rent afresh, some stout brig with 
black or chequered sides and a blue vein of smoke going 
up straight out of her galley chimney, and then arching 
over like the curl of a plume would be unveiled ; and no 
matter how ugly the craft was that would be thus 
suddenly confessed, the witchery of the shining back- 
ground of cloud entered her and submitted her as dainty 
and delightful, full of a grace that owed nothing to 
form ; so that even a wretched little coaster with boom- 
foresail, and a suit of canvas as many-coloured as 
Joseph's coat, met the eye clothed with beauty, from 
the buttons of her trucks down to the tremulous silver 
of the reflection of her sails under her. Then presently 
glimpses of the land were to be had, the flash of 
sunward-staring windows ashore, the vivid green of 
verdure sloping to the edge of the white abrupt, a 
steamer with raking funnels cautiously coming out, the 
twinkle of foam upon the margin of gray shingle. 

But you need a mountainous land to obtain the 
highest and choicest effects of fog revealments. The 
noblest show in this way that I ever beheld was off 
Mossel Bay on the South African coast. There the 
inland mountains tower to an elevation, that though 
they may be ten or fifteen miles distant, seems to enable 
them to cast the twilight of their Andean shadows upon 
the ship. It is like beholding the Jbirth of a world, to 



72 PICTURES AT SEA 

mark those Titanic peaks growing out of the white 
envelopment, as though creation were busy in yonder 
void, and shaping a vast territory out of sheer chaotic 
blindness. 

Another lovely effect I have often gazed at with 
delight. I mean the vision of a ship hovering on the 
horizon, with an atmosphere of shivering brightness 
between her and the sea-line. Then, with the eye or 
with the telescope, she looks to be floating in the blue air. 
I have seen an airy space of pearl hanging like a cloud 
over the sea boundary, and I have watched it lifting and 
lengthening, one shining outline rising to another out of 
the sea, until three stately pyramids of canvas have 
been hove up; and then, presently, the hull rose to 
complete the symmetrical fabric, and thus apparently 
afloat in the azure, the ship has sailed towards us 
without appearing to touch the sea until the line of the 
horizon behind her was level with her counter. Eefrac- 
tion or some like quality productive of atmospheric 
effects will yield many queer and even startling ocean 
pictures. The mate of a vessel once called my attention 
to a ship, about four miles distant, right abeam. There 
was a light wind, and the day was wonderfully fine and 
clear. The stranger was under all plain sail, and her 
yards braced fore and aft, which enabled us to obtain 
a good view of her canvas. She was so incredibly 
distorted by the atmosphere as to be unrecognizable as 
a ship, in the sense, I mean, of that term. Her masts 
were curved like the prongs of a pitchfork; her huU 
rounded like the back of a hog; her sails ludicrously 
elongated; her jibbooms twisted into a figure beyond 
description. I have no doubt we presented the same 
convulsed appearance to her. Every man who saw her 
broke into a loud laugh ; yet she was an object to put 



PICTURES AT SEA. 73 

some qneer ideas into the imaginative brain, and I have 
little doubt that the paternity of many a singular 
superstition of the sea might be traced to such atmo- 
spheric caprices as this. 

The effect of a red sunset upon a ship sailing quietly 
along is a choice study full of sweetness. The rigging 
shines like wires of brass, the sails like cloth of gold ; 
there are crimson stars wherever there are windows. 
Against the soft evening blue she glides glorious as a 
fabric richly gilt. Sometimes the slow withdrawal of 
the western splendour from her may be watched ; then 
her hull will be dark with evening shadow, whilst the 
light, like a golden veil lifted off her by an invisible hand, 
slides upwards from one rounded stretch of canvas to 
another, till, burning for a breath, like a streak of fire in 
the dog- vane at the lofty mast-head, it vanishes, and 
the structure floats gray as the ash of tobacco. In this 
withdrawal of the sun, and in the gathering of the 
shadows of night at sea, there is a certain melancholy ; 
but I do not think it can be compared with the spirit 
of desolation you find in the breaking of the dawn over 
the ocean. The passage from sunlight to darkness 
even in the tropics is not so swift, but that the mind so 
to speak has time to accept the change; but there is 
something in the cold, spiritless gray of dawn that 
always did and still does affect my spirits at sea. The 
froth of the running billows steals out ghastly to the 
faint, cheerless, and forbidding light. Chilly as the 
night may have been, a new edge of gold seems to have 
come into the air, with the sifting of the melancholy 
spectral tinge of gray into the east. The light puts a 
hollow look into the face of the seaman. The aspect of 
his ship is full of bleakness; the stars are gone, the 
skies are cold, and the voices of the wind aloft are like 



74 FICTUBES AT SEA. 

a frosty whistling through clenched teeth. A mere 
fancy, of course, which is instantly dissolved by the first 
level, sparkling beam of the rising sun. But then it is 
fancy that makes up the life of the sea, for without it 
what is the vocation but a dull routine of setting and 
furling sail, of masticating hard beef and pork, of 
slushing masts, washing decks, and polishing the 
brasswork? The spacious liquid arena is prodigal of 
inspiration and of delight to any one who shall carry 
imagination away with him on a voyage. There may 
be twenty different things to look at at once, and every 
one richer, sweeter, and more ennobling than the 
greatest of human poems to the heart that knows how 
to watch and receive. The shadow of a dark cloud over 
a ship, with the sunshine streaming white in the clear 
blue foaming seas around ; the vision of the iceberg at 
night, colouring the black atmosphere with a radiance of 
its own ; the tropical blue of the horizon, lifting into 
brassy brightness to the central dazzle of the sun ; the 
airy dyes of the evening over a ship in the far loneliness 
of the mid-ocean — scores of such sights there are ; but 
what magic is there in human pen to express them ? 
The majesty of the Creator is nowhere so apparent; 
the Spirit of the Universe is nowhere else so present. 
Those who know most dare least in their desire to 
reproduce. "What other response is there for the heart 
to make to the full recognition of the eye, but the silence 
of adoration ! * 

• Beprinted from Macmillan^s Magazine, 



FOUL OF A WATERSPOUT. 

My friend, the second mate, told me this story as we 
paced the deck together. One thing had led to another, 
and something was said about waterspouts. 

** Supposing," said he, ** that Isaac Newton had 
fallen a-musing alongside a spout instead of under an 
apple tree ; — do you think he would have fixed the law 
of gravitation as it now stands ? ** 

" Explain," said L 

"Why," he answered, "it was the apple coming 
down that gave Newton the fancy of a magnetic 
central attraction ; but if he had sat by a spout going 
up, you know " 

" Oh, I see," said I. 

" Were you ever foul of a spout ? " he asked. 

** Why, no; never right in the thick of one," I replied. 
" I have seen those things, as I have seen icebergs, close 
enough aboard to make me wish them out of sight." 

" Ha ! " exclaimed the second mate, fetching his 
breath suddenly, with a look to seawards, as though 
his mind ran strong that way with the memory that 
rose up in him, ** it was so much of a touch and go with 
us aboard a ship that I was once in, all through a con- 
founded waterspout, too, that, for months after, I went 
about with a feeling in me that I was doing a violence to 
the laws of nature by being alive." 



7(5 FOUL OF A WATERSPOUT. 

" Is it a long yarn ? " said I. 

" No," said he ; *' it's better than long, it's true." 

** What about this waterspout, then ? " I inquired. 

** See here, now," he began; ** I was third mate of an 
800-ton barque, named the Cashmere Merchant, We were 
in the Bay of Bengal, a hundred and thirteen days out 
from Liverpool, and all hands ill of the sea. You know 
what I mean. Not so much sick of the ocean as sick 
mth it. The complexion of every sailor's face made him 
show as though pea soup and salt horse had got hold of 
him at last, and were working out of his pores. The 
very ship seemed to express her loathing with every 
sickly roll, as though she was pining for the dry dock 
and the comfort of clean sheathing. It had been a 
heavy, sleepy kind of day. A little before noon I had 
thought I spied an ox-eye up in the dingy blue, and the 
appearance was so like that cyclonic portent that the 
skipper was of my mind till, after gazing at it awhile, it 
shaped out into an odd wool-white cloud, for all the 
world like the first puff of powder-smoke that breaks 
ball-shaped from the mouth of a fired gun, and floats so 
till the fingers of the wind draw it out, as a woman will 
skein wool between her hands. The strange lump of 
vapour blew away, and so there was an end of it. We 
had had some hot days, but this was the hottest of all. 
There was not a draught of air to be felt outside the 
eddying fannings of the sails as the vessel rolled, bring- 
ing the cloths to the mast in thunderclaps along with 
execrations from the cook in his galley, and a pleasant 
elink of crockery stealing softly up through the open 
cabin skylights. But the barometer stood high ; and the 
sultry day, with its huddle of heavy clouds all around the 
horizon, and the dusty azure over the mastheads, and 
the body of the sun filtering through it, as though he 



FOUL OF A WATERSPOUT. Tt 

"was some jelly-fish formed of fire, was not to signify in 
the face of that assurance. 

** In the second dog-watch I came out of the deck- 
house, where I slung my hammock, with three appren- 
tices, to smoke a pipe in the waist. It was too burning 
hot to linger anywhere out of the air. The sailors 
sprawled about the forcastle, panting like wounded dogs 
with the heat — half naked some of them, their mossy 
breasts bare, their breeches rolled up above the knees, 
for the comfort of bare legs in such a temperature. Now 
and then you would see a man come to the sbuttle-butt 
and then turn from the dipper without drinking, with an 
eye of disgust, as though his thirst went deeper than 
there was any virtue in that old water, smelling stale as 
a duck-puddle, to fathom. All day long the heaped-up 
clouds had hung apparently motionless upon the horizon, 
as though some mighty besom had swept them off the 
sea and left them on the confines in a ring of hilly ridges. 
They were there still, but with a plain lifting of them 
since noon, some eight or twelve degrees. When the 
sun went down into the westward range it was all a 
boiling crimson, with a sort of smoky scarlet to the 
zenith, and the clouds themselves dark as thunder this 
side. But it was not until he was gone, and the night 
had risen dark and moonless, with a spare lean star here 
and there, struggling for life as it were, looking as weak 
as a brilliant light might, sunk some fathoms into the 
sea, that you saw how full of electricity everything was. 
In each heave of the dark swell there was a swarming 
of phosphorus in vast greenish cloudy puffs, and fires 
bright as lightning flashes broke from the barque's sides 
as she leaned to the folds rending the water along her. A 
corposant showed at the mainyardarm, flickering on the 

boom-iron th-ere, and the reflection of it in the glass-like 
6 



78 FOUL OF A WATEBSPODT. 

darkness underneath made you think of some one-eyed 
goblin of a fish, that had floated up to attentively examine 
your craft, with a view to a lucid report anon to its horned 
and betailed captain, awaiting it deep down amidst the 
sea fires.'^ 

" A little too poetical," said I, interrupting my friend. 
" Where does this waterspout of yours come in. Master 
Grogblossom ? " 

" Pooh, pooh ! " he exclaimed, *' what do you want ? 
A shipmaster's deposition? Hang baldness, say I. 
Look at a naked poll. There's sheer truth there, but 
confoundedly prosaic. No, no ; give me the embellish- 
ment of hair, or, failing that, a wig. But the spout's not 
far off now, so stand by. I was in the port watch, of 
course, third mates always are, and the port watch 
came on deck at eight o'clock in the evening. The 
chief mate was a cheerful little Welshman — God rest 
his soul! — one of the most intelligent seamen I was 
ever associated with, with as tender a heart as ever beat 
under a velvet waistcoat, and eyes so bright that I'd 
sometimes think that the redness that ringed them was 
nothing but the scorching of the skin by the flashing of 
his gaze. We were very good friends, both of a rather 
poetical turn of mind, no very great rarity amongst 
seamen, though the confoundedly strained" manliness of 
the sailor makes him feel sheepish, even to be suspected 
of a romantic humour now and again. The skipper 
hovered about till ten, then went below. I joined the 
mate, and we fell to quietly pacing the deck, talking of 
anything but the weather and the heat, and the calm, 
being sick of the things. No, sir; our conversation 
went to consideration of the sort of times we were to 
expect at Calcutta, and I was in the midst of telling him 
that I was thinking seriously of looking out for a mate's 



FOUL OF A WATERSPOUT. 79 

berth aboard a country wallah, where the month's wage 
sounded tall in the shape of rupees, when he interrupted 
me by coming all on a sudden to a dead stand, whilst 
he cried, in a tragic voice, that was scarce more than a 
hoarse whisper, pointing with a little arm as he spoke — 

" ' My God, what is that ? ' 

** His forefinger indicated a space of dusk that la^y 
like an ink-stain upon the night that was dark, as the 
sea-line everywhere else was ; and in the heart of this 
peculiar murky blotch I observed what looked to me to 
be two fine lines of flame close together, forking out of 
the sea, and lengthening upwards, as one watched with 
a kind of throbbing pallor whence they proceeded, 
though this last was very elusive, and noticeable only 
when the sight went a little to the right or left of it. 

*''Hush!' said I, after straining my hearing a 
moment, whilst the mate stood watching stockstill, as 
though spell-bound. * Do you hear it ? ' 

" The noise I meant, though very faint, was audible 
enough amid the pauses of the flapping canvas on high. 
Think of a kettle boiling in a room next to the one you 
are seated iq, and that will be the character of the noise 
I heard. As I spoke, there was a flash of lightning right 
betwixt the two fine lines of fire, and the wild glare 
threw out the ponderous folds of a great cloud hanging, 
like masses of smoke arrested and pressed down, above 
those strange and ever growing luminous stalks. 

***A waterspout — two of them, it looks like,* cried 
the mate. 'How does it travel? Why, by all that's 
precious ! if its growth signifies its course, it's heading 
direct for the barque.' 

"His vehement exclamations startled the men who 
had stowed themselves away about the decks for a nap, 
and you saw a flitting of dusky figures to the rail, and 



80 FOUL OF A WATERSPOUT. 

caught a note of alarm in the half-smothered growl of 
voices which came along. Saving, always, the swing of 
the swell, the harque lay as dead on the sea as a light- 
ship, not an inch of way on her; so that there was 
nothing possible to be done in the way of manoeuvring. 

" * But waterspouts don't shine,' cried I, to the 
mate. 

"*Yes, yes,' he answered; 'yonder does, anyhow. 
It is the phosphorus in the water. I have seen such 
things again and again, glowing as though they had got 
a streak of lightning stowed away in their coil.' 

''He continued to look; then, with an oath, he cried 
out passionately that the appearance was heading for 
us, and, with a bound, gained the companion, down 
which he bolted, returning after a few breathless 
moments followed by the captain, who rose out of the 
hatch like a ghost^ habited in his shirt and drawers 
only. 

" Believe me or not as you will, but what I'm going 
to tell you is as true as that I, who walk by your side 
now, am a living man. The fire-tinctured stalks, as I 
will call them, had thickened with incredible rapidity, 
and looked five hundred feet high, distant as they yet 
were. There was a constant play of lightning over 
them, sometimes very fierce and brilliant, with sharp 
cracks of thunder, whose reverberations rolled over the 
polished undulations of the water with a sound of heavy 
bowls hurled along a resonant wooden stage. The 
stagnation around made the sight of that small rotating 
luminous tempest as wonderful as it was frightful. 
Every moment heightened the roar of the boiling at its 
base, and the indescribable yelling of the circular 
sweeping of the wind of this narrow tempest. Some of 
the men beat with handspikes furiously upon the scuttle 



FOUL OF A WATERSPOUT. 81 

to arouse the watch below. I stood watching, scarce 
drawing a breath, captain and mate beside me, both 
silent. Indeed, there was nothing to be done. We 
ought, perhaps, to have fired a gun ; but we hadn't such 
a thing aboard. The course of the spout was easily to be 
gathered by the sharpening of the mystical golden fires 
which illuminated the revolving columns, and by the 
whitening upon the sight of the bed of foam out of which 
those vast liquid trunks grew, and by the increasing 
uproar of the maddened and seething mass of spume, 
and of the thunder blasts over it following each jagged, 
barbed lightning-stroke with continuous detonations, 
comparable only to broadside after broadside delivered 
from a four-decked line-of-battle ship. The spout came 
along slowly — ^if a single spout it were — with its two 
flaming limbs and one dense head of vapour. There 
was a bit of hope to be got out of this, for it might 
break and perish ere it reached us. 

" The captain cried, ' My God I what shall we do ? 
How fast is it travelling, think you, Mr. Morgan ? * 

*** Eight miles in the hour — ^no faster, sir,' croaked 
the mate, in the voice of a man sentenced to death. 

" ' It'll be aboard us ! ' roared some one forward 
suddenly in a panical way, and the cry was instantly 
followed by a frantic rush aft of shadows, as the figures 
of the men looked. But the boatswain of the barque, 
whose tones I recognized, cried out, * Jump for shelter, 
my lads ! jump for shelter ! Down with you under 
deck, or there'll be ne'er a life left to explain what hurt 
the ship ; ' on which many of the men sprang forward 
again, the captain saying nothing, and the mate as 
mute as I, for the lightning was crackling over our 
heads now, and the barque was plunging upon the 
heavy sea, flung in advance by the commotion, though 



82 FOUL OF A WATERSPOUT. 

there was not a breath of air yet, as I li?e to tell it, and 
the spout almost within pistol shot ! 

"Well, I can only speak of myself now, for what 
followed was like a horrible nightmare, from which you 
start with the blood thick in your veins, without being 
able to recall a feature of the terror that awoke you. 
The mad impulse one got from the sight and sound of 
the spout, and its horrible accompaniments of whiteness 
at foot and blackness overhead, was for shelter, and my 
first spring was for the companion, with a cry to the 
captain and mate to follow me. I was scarce four steps 
dovm when there happened a shock as though an earth- 
quake, right under the keel of the barque, had torn her 
into staves. Just for one instant my ear caught the 
inexpressible hellish clamour of tons of sweeping water, 
of spars snapping like pipestems — ^then wash ! the com- 
panion way was filled in a breath, and down I went, 
swept along and into insensibility by a flood that was a 
small Niagara Falls in its way for weight. 

" Of course I wasn't drowned ; of course I regained 
consciousness ; but that was not so wonderful as that I 
should have crawled out of the cabin like a soaked fleece, 
a sane man, with every sense taut in him, instead of a 
grinning and gibbering idiot. I gained the deck. The 
night was breathless. No sound came off the ocean, 
though the horizon hung black all around as before. It 
took me awhile to see, and then I observed that the 
barque was dismasted. The shadow of her deck stretched 
out before me — a sheer hulk ! There were figures 
moving here and there. I halloed, and most of them 
came aft. But they were all too stupefied to answer 
questions; they muttered in a dazed way. Who was 
missing, what had happened more than that the barque 
had been stripped to the condition of a naked hull, was 



FOUL OF A WATERSPOUT, 83 

not to be gathered till the dawn came. But before the 
light broke we had rallied suflBciently to man the pumps 
and keep them going. Talk of a wreck ! Never did the 
sun rise upon a more pitiable sight than the barque 
made ; three jagged stumps where the lower masts had 
been ; a whole wilderness of wreckage over the side ; 
bowsprit gone, the whole line of port bulwarks smashed 
flat, deck house, galley, long boat, quarter boats — all 
vanished. The captain and the poor fellow who had 
been at the wheel were missing, their fate needed no 
guessing. But we found the body of the mate, cruelly 
bruised and barely distinguishable as a human form, 
lying under a mass of gear. Well, to end the yam, for 
it's nearly told, we passed three days of desperate 
pumping, for the vessel took in water as though her 
bottom had been a grating, and 'twas pump or sink, for 
we were without a boat. But on the morning of the 
fourth day a steamer hove in sight, spied us and came 
alongside. She was just in time ; we were mere spectres, 
with the strength of such things, and I believe if the 
next relief of the pumps had been called there would 
have been no answer.'' 



HAZARDOUS VOYAGES. 

"Leaky ships," says Captain Ridley, in a little work 
published in 1854, "are very disheartening to most 
seamen, and particularly to those not used to them. I 
had been at sea myself about twelve years before I knew 
what a tight ship was, and in some cases it was either 
pump or sink with us." Those were the days of timber 
frames. It is iron that has rendered the sailor timorous 
on this head in our time. When an iron vessel starts a 
butt, or is " holed " as they call it, the case of the people 
on board is very commonly a bad one. It is a hundred 
to one that she founders if she be out upon the ocean, 
away from tugs, or a convenient beach. On the other 
hand, it was no strange sight in the wooden period to 
pass ships with bright water gushing out of the scupper- 
holes, sure sign of their taking it in as fast as they 
ejected it, yet making no fuss with their signal-bunting. 
A glimpse of the deck as the fabric was inclined by the 
sea showed a handful of men hard at work at the brake 
or the fly, and so, spouting like a half-spent whale, the 
winged structure would go lazily rolling into the blue 
distance of the horizon. 

Hazardous as must be a voyage in a leaky ship, 
the adventure, in a former age, was often stoutly and 
deliberately entered upon. I find a good example of 



HAZARDOUS VOYAGES, 85 

this in the account of a voyage from Hull to Ehode 
Island. The ship was named the American, and was 
loaded with coals, grindstones, bale goods, and hemp. 
In hauling out she took the ground, and lay straining 
for four days. When she was got off the crew had to 
rig both pumps, then, finding her very leaky, the whole 
of them left her. The captain went to the owner, who 
told him to carry the vessel out, as he could not consent 
to have her repaired at home. A fresh crew were 
shipped, and away went the vessel out of the Humber 
with a fair wind and tide. By this time she was pretty 
deep, and to prevent the men from being alarmed the 
captain hid the sounding-rod. Shortly afterwards he 
ordered the vessel to be pumped out, and went to work 
with the rest of the crew ; but both pumps having been 
kept going for an hour without any encouraging result 
the men said that the ship was too old to suck, meaning 
that they would never be able to free her of water. The 
captain answered that the wind would prevent him from 
returning to the Humber, were he willing to do so, that 
they were now at sea, and must either pump or drown. 
He added that he hoped the ship would grow tighter 
presently, but that if she did not he would put into 
Harwich for repairs. This appears to have satisfied the 
men, who worked so heartily that, at the expiration of 
four hours, they found one pump, constantly kept going, 
enough. The season was the winter, the ocean the 
North Atlantic, the ship a crazy, leaky craft. The 
captain, minding nothing, headed right away for the 
American coast. He was beset with severe " Jack 
nor'westers,"- as he called them, and heavy gales from 
other points of the compass ; his ship was coated with 
ice, and his crew half dead with cold ; he had sailed on 
the 29th of September, and on the 24th of December 



86 HAZARDOUS VOYAGES. 

was in soundings, but mistook the coast, headed to the 
eastward with the pump going continuously, and the 
lead every half-hour, and anchored, in a black night 
full of frost and ice, in nine fathoms of water with 
the land close aboard. After further struggles, which 
brought the date into January — the whole passage 
occupied about three months and a half! — "we weighed 
anchor and worked the ship safe into the harbour of 
Newport, in Ehode Island, to the no small amazement 
of our merchant, Mr. Joseph Harrison, and all the 
gentlemen of that place." 

I find an extraordinary instance of the triumph of 
spirit and perseverance in this way in William Nichol- 
son's "Treatise on Practical Navigation," 1796. The 
vessel was his Majesty's ship Elizabeth. She was nearly 
wrecked by a gale of wind in the Indian Ocean whilst 
homeward bound, and was only kept afloat by incessant 
pumping and baling at the hatchways. In another 
storm they lost their rudder. The ship had to be 
" trapped '* — bound around with ropes passed under and 
over her — to keep her together I She had left Bombay 
on the 16th of December, 1763 ; and she was off Spithead 
on the 11th of July — seven months en route! But in 
what condition? She was ordered to Chatham to be 
paid off, but before leaving Spithead it was deemed 
necessary to repair her upper works so that she might 
hold together as far as the Medway. A number of 
dockyard shipwrights and caulkers arrived on board, 
" and," says the author, ** were surprised beyond 
expression to see the ship frapped fore and aft upon 
both decks, the decks and sides all covered over with 
canvas, and the ship so much broke or hogged, it was 
frightful to behold ; and we thought it unsafe to take off 
any of the frappings." The caulkers and shipwrights 



BAZAItDOUS VOYAGES. 87 

left the- ship in a hurry, believing that she would sink 
under them as they stood upon her. 

I am not sure that the spirit of the English sailor is 
not better illustrated by such stories as these, than by 
all that can be told of him as a gunner and a boarder. 
Next to the Elizabeth stands the Pique. What is finer, 
in all the records, as a piece of seamanship and a 
specimen of resolution, than the navigation by Eous and 
his men of that rudderless ship from the Canadian bay, 
-where she struck^ to St. Helen's, where she let go the 
anchor ? 

But the really hazardous voyage properly comes 
under the heading of ocean boating. There are dozens 
of instances of deliverances by the agency of the small 
boat, so miraculous that, related as fiction, they would 
be regarded as extreme experiments on the capacity of 
human credulity. Let me give a notable instance drawn 
from a narrative entitled '* A small monument of great 
mercy, in the miraculous deliverance of five persons 
from slavery at Algiers in a canvas boat, with an 
account of the great distress and extremities which they 
endured at sea, by William Okeley, 1644." The author 
relates, in the course of his narrative, that having met 
with a Rev. Mr. Sprat, who was likewise captive among 
the Moors, he — that is Okeley — along with other Chris- 
tian slaves, were permitted by their masters to have 
this clergyman to preach to them in a cellar. In this 
cellar seven of them — all sworn to secrecy — set to work 
upon a boat. They first provided a piece of wood, twelve 
feet long, cut in two, that it might escape observation, 
but jointed in the middle. Next they procured the 
timbers or ribs, which were each in three pieces, and 
jointed in two places. They also managed to obtain as 
much canvas as would cover the boat twice over, with 



88 HAZARDOUS VOYAGES. 

some pitch, tar, and tallow for converting it into a tar- 
paulin. The little structure — the full details of which 
are given, though I have no space for them here — was 
put together in the cellar, and then taken to pieces 
again. ** It was a matter of difficulty," says the author, 
** to get the pieces conveyed out of the city ; but William 
Adams carried the keel, and hid it at the bottom of 
a hedge; the rest was carried away with similar pre- 
caution." Eventually they got the boat afloat. There 
were seven of them; but, at the last moment, two of 
them said they would rather continue in slavery than be 
drowned, and so backed out of the adventure. " Taking 
a solemn farewell of our two companions left behind, 
and wishing them as much happiness as could be hoped 
for in slavery, and they to us as long life as could be 
expected by men going to their graves, we launched out 
on the 80th June, 1644, a night ever to be remembered." 
The company consisted of John Anthony, William 
Adams, John Jeplis, John the carpenter, and William 
Okeley. Five stout men in a canvas boat twelve feet 
long, without helm, sail, or compass, their provisions 
a little bread, instantly spoilt by the salt water that 
soaked through the canvas, and two goat-skins full of 
fresh water, to which ''the tanned skins imparted a 
nauseous quality ! " The description that follows is, of 
course, the familiar, but not the less terrible, story of 
the anguish of men in direful extremity. They managed 
to reach the island of Majorca nevertheless, then took 
ship to Gibraltar, travelled by the foot-post by land to 
Cadiz, and were ultimately taken on board an English 
ship, commanded by ** Captain Smith of Kedriff," and 
reached the Downs in September, 1644. 

In these days of huge ocean steamships every allow- 
ance must be made for the general prejudice in favour 



HAZARDOUS VOYAGES, 89 

of tonnage. In former times a very small craft sufficed 
for a considerable voyage. '*One of the East India 
ship's long-boats," I find in an old record of 1759, 
'' rigged, of twelve tons, with only six hands and a mate 
on board, arrived express from the Brazils with an 
account of the arrival there *' of some ships which were 
believed to have fallen into the hands of the French. 
The old salts **went" for the sea in whatever came to 
hand, and made as little trouble in their pinnaces or 
cock-boats of a gale of wind in the middle of the 
Atlantic as the Deal men of to-day make of the seas of 
the Channel whilst cruising about for jobs in their 
galley-punts or "knock-toes." Captain Bligh, of his 
Majesty's ship Bounty^ was not one of those shining 
characters towards whose qualities one's heart leans 
affectionately whilst reading about them ; but he seems 
to have embarked on that enormous boating trip, into 
which Mr. Christian and the others forced him, with but 
little concern, if it were not that he mistrusted his stock 
of food and rum. 

The Lord Mayor of London, by way of satisfying de 
Mandelsloe* — who had narrowly escaped drowning — 
that seafaring people run many risks, told him a story 
of a Dutch seaman, whose sentence, for some crime, had 
been changed from death into banishment to the island 
of St. Helena. The Dutch sailor, dreading solitude, 
determined to hazard his life, at any rate, rather than 
be marooned. He dug up a coffin in which a sea officer 
had been buried the day before, and removed the corpse, 
then cut out a board, which he fitted to the coffin as 
a rudder, launched the ghastly bark, got into it, and 
floated out to sea. It happened that the ship to which 
he had belonged lay becalmed a few miles distant, 

• " Harris's Collection of Voyages." 



90 HAZARDOUS VOYAGES, 

" and," continued Sir Edmund Wright, the Lord Mayor, 
" the 8hip*s crew observing so odd a kind of vessel float- 
ing on the surface of the water, thought it had been an 
apparition, till, coming nearer and nearer the ship, 
they stood amazed at this unaccountable boldness of 
the man, who had ventured so far in two or three pieces 
of boards without being assured whether he should be 
received or not. It being put to the question, it was at 
last resolved he should be taken on board, which was 
done accordingly, and he returned to Holland, where he 
lived afterwards in the town of Horn." 

This same Lord Mayor told de Mandelsloe another 
story, which much resembles the account I have already 
given of the escape of the five English seamen from the 
Moors in 1644. Four sailors who had been taken by 
the Algerines, resolved to make a small boat, and put to 
sea in her. They took five boards from the store-room — 
but what sort of store-room is not told, nor did his lord- 
ship name the scene of this adventure — of two of which 
they made a bottom for the boat, two more supplied the 
sides, and '' the fifth for the prow and poop, their quilt 
serving for towe," in other words for oakum for caulking. 
When the boat was ready and launched they found it 
would only hold two; two only, therefore, could go. 
These were an Englishman and a Dutchman, who, 
having found means to provide a pair of oars, a piece of 
sail, and a slender portion of bread and fresh water, 
boldly put to sea, having, as the Lord Mayor said, 
'' neither compass nor astrolabe," this latter being 
one of the instruments — Jacob's staff and the fore or 
cross staff being others — ^by which the ancient mariners 
measured the altitude of the sun. They had not long 
started before they were overtaken by a storm, before 
which they had to run; their bread was soaked into 



HAZARDOUS VOYAGES, 91 

pulp, they lost their fresh water, and their whole time 
was occupied in baling. They were eventually driven 
on to the coast of Barbary — a famous hunting-ground 
for the early sea-fictionists — where they set about to 
enlarge their boat, which they had barely managed when 
they were forced afloat again by the inhabitants, who 
wanted to kill them. For ten days they were washed 
about in an ark assuredly very much less seaworthy 
than the coffin in which the Dutchman had escaped 
from St. Helena, and were finally cast upon the Spanish 
coast, between Alicant and Valentia, where," concluded 
my lord, who related these tales as he sat banqueting, 
'* being civily entertained by the inhabitants, they after 
came into England/' 

These strange " deliverances '* recall a curious inci- 
dent mentioned in some of the accounts of the Spanish 
discoveries and settlements. One of the adventurers 
was Vasquez Nunez, a person of good family, hand- 
some, and a scholar. He had formerly sailed with 
Bastidas ; but, after having received charge of one of 
the settlements, he was sentenced to death for betrayal 
of his trust, or for some offence not clearly stated. He 
effected his escape somewhat after the manner of the 
St. Helena Dutchman. A Spanish ship, commanded 
by Euciso, was taking in a quantity of bread for stores ; 
Nunez put himself into one of the bread- casks and 
was shipped for forecastle use. He lay in hiding 
until the ship had put about three hundred miles 
between her and the land, and then made his appear- 
ance on deck. The captain, who had been strictly 
charged not to carry away any offender, was so vexed, 
that he threatened to ^et Nunez ashore on the first 
desert island he came to; but on some persons of distinc- 
tion, who were in the vessel, interceding, he granted the 



92 HAZAHDOUS VOYAGES. 

handsome adventurous young Spaniard his protection. 
This was possibly as hazardous a voyage as ever man 
embarked upon. 

The perils of the sea were multiplied in olden times 
by the slowness of ships as sailers. Their holds were 
small, their companies numerous, and weeks or months 
of dull and languid " stemming " or "plying" often termi- 
nated in disease, famine, madness, and misery not to be 
expressed. Every week might witness a new thickening 
of marine growths upon the ship's bottom, causing the 
unwieldly form to move more slowly yet through the 
billows. "There are brigs," says a writer in 1800, "that 
will not sail above three knots upon a wind, one of which 
is to leeward ; other brigs with smooth water and fine 
gales will not go more than four-and-a-half knots large." 
For my part, I would rather be with Dampier, flying 
before the tempest in his canoe, than tumbling, wind- 
jammed, for months in some of the old ships one reads 
about — in such a vessel, say, as the Dolphin sloop, 
which, when fallen in with, had been one hundred and 
sixty-five days at sea, though the distance she had to 
measure was no more than the ocean between the 
Canary Islands and New York. For one hundred and 
sixteen days the crew had been' in a state of famine. 
They declared to the captain who rescued them, that 
the ship's provisions had been exhausted three months 
before. The Dolphin is but a type of the slow old tub, 
and the hazards of such voyages. The most dismal of 
all the marine narratives relate to such craft. There is 
some excitement in delivering one's self from slavery or 
death by entering a bread-cask, or sailing away in a 
coffin, or a canvas boat. A man under such circum- 
stances is supported by the sense of romance, and the 
obligation of adventuring his life for the preservation of 



HAZARDOUS VOYAGES, 93 

it. But to be months at sea in an old butter-box, that 
won't go to windward, that is only able to run sluggishly 
out of one adverse wind into another, in whose lazarette 
the stock of provisions grows smaller and smaller every 
day, whose crevices swarm with the gaunt and horrible 
anatomies of starving rats, with 'eyes rendered crimson 
and sparkling by the fires of famine — let us be thankful 
that these are the days of twelve knots an hour, more or 
less. 



FORECASTLE TRAITS. 

There is truth in a short character of the English sailor, 
that I find in a little volame bearing the highly-marine 
name of "The Quid," published fifty years ago: *'I 
have travelled far and near, and never knew one nation 
that could shake you by the hand like the English. It 
is not the hand, but the heart; and above all — which 
surpasses — ^is the homely clasp of a British sailor.. It is 
not the hand and heart only, it is the soul. In the 
clasp you feel the man, and with it a desire not to 
relinquish (at least hastily) possession of what you feel 
assured is the genuine token of sincerity and true 
friendship." This sentiment certainly might have found 
a more elegant expression ; but a neater form could not 
have added to its truth. For staunchness, simplicity, 
sincerity, esprit de corps, for all those qualities which 
combined produce on shore the honest friend, at sea the 
loyal messmate and shipmate, the English sailor I think 
is not to be matched. One reason may be that his life 
is like no other man's. He is locked up in a ship for 
weeks and perhaps months, sees the same faces over and 
over again, gets to know the qualities and characters of 
his associates, shares with them in whatever peril they 
may encounter, in their toil, their fooling, the pathos 
and the pleasures of the sea. The weariness of the 
calling may indeed produce quarrels and engender ill- 



F0BECA8TLS TRAITS, 95 

blood : but tbe influence of the long intercourse is sure 
in its effects; a man will do for a shipmate what he 
would not do for another. They may be fresh from a 
bitter fight, yet, let either be in extremity, the other will 
adventure his life for him ; let either be in want, the 
other will share his last dollar with him. Were it 
otherwise, how could the English sailor have been the 
man he was, the man he is ? Our British annals teem 
with illustrations of forecastle devotion, and in sailors' 
language the word "messmate" must always mean the 
word " friend." I will not, indeed, deny that steam has 
somewhat modified this afore-mast feature. The longest 
passage is now counted in days. Crews are rapidly paid 
off, change their ships, and are comparatively strangers 
one to another when they step ashore. But the sailing 
vessel is not yet dead ; and whilst she remains afloat, 
journeying by way of the Cape into the Indian and 
Southern Oceans, or struggling round the Horn for 
South Atlantic waters, you may look with confidence 
for perpetuation of the old forecastle spirit. 

There is one quality of the vocation, however, that 
seems to me to have shrunk very surprisingly of late 
years. I mean the humour of the sailor. That he was 
at any time the drinking, capering, jigging, Saturday- 
night, cans-of-grog, and wives-and-sweethearts' man we 
find him in the sea songs and the old tales is not to be 
supposed. This caricature of the salt grew out of war- 
like times, when the battle was everywhere raging loud 
and long, and when it was everybody's businiess to teach 
the sailor to believe that going to sea meant merely a 
long and jovial course of prize-money, jorums of flip, 
hornpipes, glory, Polly, and Greenwich Hospital. The 
literary and other artists over-did the portrait. They 
laid on their pigments with trowels. It answered the 



96 FORECASTLE TRAITS. 

purpose of the nation to accept the singular figure as a 
first-rate likeness. But I do not think that the sailor's 
humour, his power — whether hy his manner, his face, 
or by the force of his calling — of importing into his 
mirth or misery an element of jocosity that rendered the 
relation of his experience, whether by his own or by the 
lips of others, unusually diverting, even when largely 
tinctured by pathos, was exaggerated at any time. At 
this day, it is true, you will sometimes find a laugh in 
his habits or theory of life, as, for instance, in a case 
heard not long ago by the licensing magistrates to whom 
application was made by an £ast-end landlord who 
declared that, though he prohibited dancing in his 
establishment and did his utmost to repress it, his 
customers were too much for him; they were sailors 
and sailors' sweethearts, and so soon as the music 
struck up they cleared away the tables, making nothing 
of the screws which secured them, and fell to sliding 
about with extraordinary appetite and enjoyment. But 
you must turn back our marine history by a few chapters 
for examples of what I may call the general characteristic 
of humour in sailors — for a particular flavour in speech 
and behaviour, as distinctly ocean-bom as the breeze 
that blew them to port, or the foam that whitened their 
ships' wakes. 

There is a story told of a blind sailor. It is worthy 
of a place in Elia*s collection. The author of ** Barbara 

S " would here, I think, have found just one of 

those alley-like incidents of human life which his tender 
and plaintive genius delighted in. A man named Bobert 
Howell was charged at the Surrey Sessions with stealing 
a bundle of wearing apparel and seven or eight pounds 
in money from Francis Cooke, a blind sailor. Cooke 
asked leave to tell his story in his own way. This being 



FORECASTLE TRAITS. 97 

granted, with a preliminary scrape of the foot and drag 
at a forelock he started thus: "Please your worship, 
my name is Frank Cooke. I have served his Majesty 
for many years, and have seen some hard service before 
now. You see this mark** — pointing to his right brow. 
" About five years ago we engaged with a French frigate, 
and when she had struck we went on board her ; but, 
like a treacherous enemy, as she always was, when we 
got on deck they attacked us, and in the fight I was 
struck just there," here he pointed again, **with a 
boarding-pike. It entered my head and I fell overboard. 
On being taken up seven splinters, mixed with pieces of 
my hat, were taken out of my skull, and I immediately 
lost the sight of that eye ; the other soon followed, and 
I became bhnd, but still remained on board as captain's 
mate. Bob Howell and me had been friends for years. 
We were messmates. When I was about to be discharged 
from the hospital ship at Sheerness, the doctor, knowing 
we were old friends, appointed Bob to be my guide and 
assistant to as far as Bristol. We left the ship in a 
boat, and landed somewhere in London, but I could not 
tell where. We had not gone far through the streets 
when we came to a gateway, and Bob took my stick from 
me, tore my pocket (where I had my money sewed up) 
ofif my jacket, and ran away with my bundle of clothes. 
After remaining on the spot for near two hours, I made 
my way as well as I could. As I went along I fell foul 
of a poor woman's tea-table, and had like to have 
thrown the poor creature's tea-things all about her. 
But I thank Heaven I did her no mischief. However, 
I told her my lamentable story, and she pitied me. A 
poor little ragged boy came up, and she begged of him 
to conduct me to Bow Street. The poor dear fellow led 
me along, and when I told him my story the good- 



98 FORECASTLE THAITS. 

natured soul put a penny piece into my hand. We went 
along until I found myself on Bow Street office steps. 
*Here is the place where you'll he sure to get redress/ 
said the boy. There was no one at the office then, so I 
asked for the next public-house, and he took me to one 
just opposite. *I must now leave you,' said he. I was 
sorry for it. But, do you know, he soon came back 
again, and the dear generous fellow put another penny 
piece into my hand and bid me good-bye. Poor fellow, 
I shall never forget his generosity. I then got some 
porter with the money he gave me, and soon after was 
brought to the office, where I told my st^ry. I have 
lived like a prince since.'* I think you find the simplicity 
of the typical old salt in perfection in this — the simplicity 
that made both the humour and the pathos of his nature. 
It is not so much that he was robbed by a shipmate, as 
that he was plundered by one who could steal from a 
blind man — and a fellow who could so act might indeed 
go to sea, and pull ropes, and furl sails, and fire off guns; 
but who would call him a sailor? The blind seaman 
was fully alive to this; the instant Howell spoke he 
cried out, ** That's him ! That's his voice ! I know it 
well. He a British sailor ! " I think I hear the scorn 
in those tones, how long since silent ! and see the pity 
and scorn working in the rugged, honest, scarred, and 
sightless face, blindly turning its sorrow and indignation 
upon the skulking miscreant who had disgraced the 
fairest of the seaman's traditions, his honour and gene- 
rosity as a shipmate. 

You find the old qualities present in the yarn of a 
Jack arriving unexpectedly with his pockets lined. He 
had been away since the beginning of the war, and was 
supposed dead. Immediately on his arrival he sought 
his wife and child ; but they had some time before quitted 



FORECASTLE TRAITS. 99 

the home in which he had left them, and nobody could 
tell him where they had gone. He made up his mind to 
discover them, and started on the seemingly hopeless 
quest. By chance, after much aimless wandering, he 
found himself in the neighbourhood of the Seven Dials, 
and, whilst passing a street, he heard a woman crying 
watercresses. He listened, believing it was the voice of 
his wife, but could scarcely credit his senses, until, on 
her approaching, he recognized hjsr. Uttering a loud 
hurrah, he made a jump, snatched the basket from her 
arm, threw the cresses into the street, and hugged her 
to his heart. The poor woman was, of course, much 
affected, and wept copiously; but she was easily pre- 
vailed on to repair to a public-house and recruit her 
shattered nerves with a drop or two of gin. After Jack 
had plied her with questions, he hauled her away to a 
clothes-shop, rigged her handsomely from stem to stern, 
pitching her old attire into the street, then called a 
coach and rode away in triumph, with one leg out of the 
window, to show his quality, swearing "that, now he 
had found his wandering rib, he was the happiest dog 

alive, and d him, but Poll and he would have a 

night of it." Equally characteristic is the story of the 
sailor's wife who, having seen her husband off at 
Portsmouth, walked to London, with the intention of 
proceeding to Northampton. Her funds failed her, and, 
to complete her distress, a child was born. A couple of 
sailors hearing of her misery, and learning that she was 
the wife of a brother tar, gave her all the money they 
had, which, with a free passage by the coach, enabled 
her to reach home. 

"We met, January the 6th, 1602, with a violent 
storm," writes M. Francois Pirard de Laval in his 
"Voyage to the East Indies," "in which one of our 



100 F0EECA8TLE TBAITS. 

seamen fell overboard, and his companion would have 
jumped after him if we had not prevented him ; though, 
after all, I took his offer to be the effect of wine rather 
than of true affection ; for there is but little friendship 
among seafaring men." So writes this old Frenchfuan, 
and I know not but that he may be right so far as 
regards the sailors of his own nation. But of English 
seamen either Pirard de Laval's theory is very much 
the other way, or the muse of naval history must be 
of extraordinary, almost impossible, nimbleness and 
fecundity as a liar. 

Take such a brick as this as an example of a great 
and spacious building, surely not altogether in the 
clouds. In 1805 a seaman named Campbell, belonging 
to the Tribune, was tried by court-martial at Spithead 
for desertion, and sentenced to receive one hundred and 
fifty lashes. As the crime with which he stood charged 
upon the books of the ship precluded him from sharing 
in prize-money, the ship's company gave him, each man 
a dollar and the midshipmen five dollars each. *' This 
act," adds the writer, ** is characteristic of British sea- 
men." 

I am pleased, too, with this little old-world passage : 
*' Yesterday the crew of the Afiica, after being paid their 
prize-money at Portsmouth, carried the boatswain, who 
had behaved to them with great humanity, tlirough the 
principal streets in procession, and then made him a 
present of a gold chain." One sees that pleasant gather- 
ing, the jolly tars rolling along, grinning as they go, 
perhaps a fiddle or two ahead of them, and a great 
drum whacked by a sailor with hearty love of noise, the 
chaired or elevated boatswain, with quid high in cheek, 
gazing like Micawber, *' not severely," and trying to look 
as if, on the whole, he was used to it. 



FORECASTLE TBAIT3. 101 

Much later on, .though still in the same century, 
there was another boatswain, possibly of the pattern of 
the gentleman with whom the mariners marched in pro- 
cession. It was at the close of the first American war, 
and our boatswain, who had belonged to a seventy-four, 
on being paid off came to London, repaired to Mon- 
mouth Street, and there purchased a secondhand Court 
dress of a Knight of the Garter. His hair was dressed 
by a skilful artist, and in full fig he went to Drury Lane 
Theatre, and seated himself in one of the stage boxes. 
In all probability the honest seaman would have con- 
tinued to excite the awe and reverence of all beholders 
as a person of honour, a spark of quality, but for two 
lively hearties who were seated in the front of the two- 
shilling gallery. They had belonged to the same ship 
as the nobleman in the box, and, after a good long stare 
at the splendid figure, they came to the conclusion that 
he was an old acquaintance. They could give no heed 
to the performance ; they were lost in contemplation of 
the well-laced magnificent creature, sitting lonely and 
majestic in his box. There was something so astonish- 
ing in the transformation, however, that doubts arose in 
their minds, and they determined to hail him, to make 
sure one way or the other. Accordingly, putting his 
hand to the side of his mouth, one of them sang out, 
**Ho, the bo'sun of the Achilles, ahoy!" to which 
the boatswain, forgetting his fine clothes, immediately 
answered, ** Hallo ! " 

But let me give foreign Jack a turn. If you here 
and there in history meet with an English sailor robbing 
a blind shipmate, so do you also here and there meet 
with a "Dutchman," to use Jack's generic term, behaving 
as if he were a British seaman. A fine example offers 
in the following anecdote. When D'Estrees bombarded 



102 F0BECA8TLE TRAITS. 

Algiers, De Choiseul -was ordered into the harbour to set 
fire to one of the enemy's ships. It was a mighty des- 
perate undertaking ; the enemy's ships surrounded him, 
and he was taken prisoner. He was sentenced to be 
blown to pieces at the cannon's mouth. An old pirate 
— of all men in the world ! — who had formerly been 
De Choiseul's prisoner, and kindly used, followed the 
Frenchman to the place of execution, and, whilst the 
people were lashing the captive to the gun, ran to him, 
and holding him in his arms, called to the gunner to 
make haste ; '* For," said he, " since I cannot save my 
benefactor, I will perish with him." The effect of this 
piece of heroism on the mind of the Dey Ghezzar was 
such as to procure the prisoner's release. I believe this 
story to be true. Had De Choiseul related it of a fellow- 
countryman posterity might please itself in deciding 
upon it. The French imagination of that period, how- 
ever, devoted its powers of exaltation to heroes living 
nearer to Paris than the Algerines. But all the good 
pickings in this way are in the English naval story. 
"Your lordship," writes Captain Dalrymple, December 
18, 1779, to Lord George Germaine, " will pardon my 
mentioning an instance of an elevated mind in a British 
tar, which amazed the Spaniards, and gave them a very 
high idea of English valour. Not contented with one 
cutlass, he had scrambled up the walls with two, and 
meeting a Spanish officer without arms, and who had 
been roused out of his sleep, had the generosity not to 
take any advantage, but presenting him with one of his 
cutlasses, told him, * You are now on a footing with 
me.' " There is a singular sequel to this story. Sir 
Peter Parker, hearing of this, appointed the man to be 
boatswain of a sloop of war. A few years after, either 
in a fit of madness or intoxication, he forgot himself. 



FORECASTLE TRAITS, 103 

and strnck bis lieutenant with his fist. For this he 
was tried, sentenced, and executed ! So it is stated in 
Schomberg's " Chronology." A genuine example of the 
curiosities of marine literature ! 

There is a story of one Daniel Bryan, an old seaman, 
who was at the Siege of Acre. At the first storming of 
the breach by the French, one of their generals was 
killed. The Turks in triumph cut off his head, stripped 
and mangled the body, and left it to be eaten by dogs. 
It lay exposed for several days. When parties of the 
sailors who had been on shore returned to their ship, 
old Dan would repeatedly ask them why they had not 
buried the poor Frenchman's remains ? To which their 
only reply was, " Go and do it yourself." At last Dan 
swore he would, observing that, after all, the French 
always gave their enemies a decent burial ; they were 
not like those etcetera Turks, who left a man to rot 
above board. Next morning he dressed himself in his 
best as if bent on a pleasure jaunt, and obtained leave to 
go ashore with the surgeon in the jolly-boat. He was 
watched by the boat's crew, who gave the following 
account of his proceedings : The old man procured a 
pickaxe, a shovel, and a rope, and insisted on being let 
down, out of a porthole, close to the breach. One or two 
of his companions, who were younger, offered to attend 
him. " No ! " he answered. ** You are too young to be 
shot at. As for me, 1 am old and deaf, and my loss 
would be no great matter." Dan was accordingly slung 
and lowered, the firing being very active at the time. 
His first trouble was to drive away the dogs. The 
French perceiving him took aim, but an officer guessing 
his intentions, was seen to throw himself across the file. 
Instantly the thunder of the battle ceased, and there was 
a death-like calm whilst the old sailor hid the remains of 



lOi FORECASTLE TRAITS. 

the body in the earth. He covered the grave with mould 
and stones, placing a large stone at the head, another 
at the feet, and then drawing forth a piece of chalk he 
laboriously wrote, " Here you lie, Old Crop ! '* This 
done he was hoisted into the town, and the firing recom- 
*menced, A few days after Sir Sidney Smith sent for old 
Dan to his cabin. 

" Well, Dan," said he, '* I hear you have buried the 
French general ? " 

'* Yes, your honour." 

" Had you anybody with you ? " 

" Yes, your honour." 

" Why, I was told you had not." 

" I had, your honour." 

"Who had you?" 

" God Almighty, sir." 

" Give old Dan a glass of grog." 

The venerable salt's story ends in the pleasant old 
way : "He is now a pensioner in the Boyal Hospital at 
Greenwich." What a noble race they were I How loyal, 
generous, brave, sincere ! Is there any change in their 
qualities ? Only one, I think ; the old humour seems 
to be dying out. 



THE OLD SEA DOG. 

There is a story, not very widely known, of the famous 
old Admiral Van Tromp. He was a big, heavy man, 
and was challenged by a French oflScer, a thin, active, 
little fellow, to fight a duel. " We are not upon equal 
terms with the rapier," said Tromp; "but call on 
me to-morrow, and I have no doubt we shall be able 
to adjust matters." The Frenchman called, and found 
the Dutch admiral bestriding a barrel of gunpowder. 
" There is room enough for both," said Tromp, pointing 
to the other end of the barrel. ** Sit down. Here's 
a match, and, as you are the challenger, give fire." 
The Frenchman was thunderstruck by this terrible 
mode of duelling, but, as the Dutchman said he would 
fight in no other way, the combat was abandoned. 

There was never a completer sea dog than old 
" Trump," as they used to call him ; and the above 
story is extremely characteristic of the race to which he 
belonged. I cannot help thinking, however, that the 
mariner of the old school has been described to us with 
features very greatly exaggerated. Down to quite recent 
times it was held imperative that the sailor should be 
represented as a man with a large, fiery bottle-shaped 
nose, little blood-shot eyes, driven deep into their holes 
by the gales of wind they had stared into, a capacious 
mouth, stretching from ear to ear, a face embellished 



106 THE OLD SEA DOG. 

by those peculiar forecastle growths termed "grog- 
blossoms/* a cheek distended by a large junk of tobacco, 
the whole improved by an expression of tipsy hilarity. 
The caricaturists never spared the sailor; particularly 
in George Cruikshank's hand did he fare ill. The 
drunken seamen of Cruikshank are very drunk indeed, 
and his virtuous Jacks are made diabolical by their 
ugliness. Cruikshank's pigtails, too, are as thick as 
the shrouds of a line-of-battle ship, and his wooden legs 
have something of the inexpressible quality of the little 
tail which curled so tightly that the dog it belonged to 
couldn't keep his hind legs down. 

No doubt the old sea dog had an existence ; but it is 
difficult to find any correspondence between the image 
of him that our imagination possesses and such true 
and faithful portraits of him as are preserved. There 
are assuredly no Trunnions in the galleries of England's 
sea worthies. Lord Nelson's face is full of refinement, 
tenderness in the expression round about the mouth, 
and a pensiveness of gaze as one seems to find it in his 
picture by Abbot. Drake had a sweet, noble, cultivated, 
and commanding face. There is, perhaps, something 
heavy and phlegmatic along with the Judaic twist of 
lineaments in the countenance of Lord St. Vincent ; but 
the brave, resolved English countenance falls very far 
short indeed of such idealisms as Smollett and other 
sea novelists have inspired. In Duncan's large, eager, 
intellectual eyes and cast of face, that reminds one of 
Dean Swift's, there is no hint of Pipes or Hatchway. 
Admiral Barrington looks like a judge in Copley's 
picture. Sir Sidney Smith has an almost effeminate 
delicacy of features. Northcote's Lord Graves has china 
enough to furnish out an alderman ; but the inspirations 
of the rum-puncheon may be sought for in vain in this 



THE OLD SEA DOG. 107 

honourable, sturdy old visage. The face of Saumarez 
is full of refinement and breeding. Sir Eoger Curtis 
completely answers to Hazlitt's definition of the gentle- 
man by appearance. Boscawen, in Eeynolds* picture, 
looks at you with noble eyes, and a sort of wistfulness 
never to be encountered in one*s fancies of the old sea 
dog. Keppel comes somewhat near to the conception 
of the bull-headed seaman ; but his is the face of a great 
mind, and there is no art in caricature to vulgarize such 
lineaments. I could go on referring to Kempenfelt, who 
went down in the Royal George, to the singularly hand- 
some face of Lord Hawke, to the hard, shrewd, dried-up, 
open-eyed, heavy-nosed countenance of Sir Charles 
Saunders, to Lord Gardener's clear cut profile, to the 
portraits of Pocock, of Captain James Cook, with his 
rugged, penetrating, scowling look ; of the fat and smiling 
Admiral Hughes, of the noble Vernon, with his thick 
eyebrows and hawk's bill nose ; of Eooke, of Lord Keith, 
of Harvey, of Tyrrel, of Nugent, and a hundred others 
of the braves of olden times. They were all sea dogs, 
and old sea dogs. How in the face of the portraits of 
these worthies, who are, physically, entirely represen- 
tative of the old race of sailors, posterity can go on 
accepting Trunnion as a strictly accurate type it is 
difficult to understand. 

The old sea dog was a gentleman who swore rather 
freely; but it may be questioned whether in other 
respects he differs very much from later generations of 
sailors. He was, perhaps, a rougher seaman than the 
man who is fortunate enough to flourish in the days of 
steam. His accommodation on board ship was not very 
good, his food was exceedingly indigestible, and, as we 
all know the very large part the stomach plays in the 
economy of the human temper, possibly not a little of 



108 THE OLD SEA DOG. 

the bad language of the old sea dog may be attributed 
to pea-soup and salt junk. His ship was incessantly 
fighting other nations' ships, and there is a quality in 
gunpowder smoke that has a very sobering influence on 
sentiment. He lived very close to death. He was 
frequently seeing his shipmates and intimate associates 
shot down by his side, and spectacles of this kind do 
not tend to the refinement of human nature. Besides, 
he was himself often wounded and losing an eye, or a 
leg, or an arm. Falconer, in his " Miscellanies,'* includes 
a poem which he calls " The Midshipman." It is the 
sketch of the depths of a man-of-war, about a hundred 
and thirty years ago. The " mid " is to dine with the 
captain^ and the poet sketches him at his toilette thus : 

" To him Japan her varnished joys denies, 
Nor bloom for him the sweets of Eastern skies ; 
His rugged limbs no lofty mirror shows ; 
Nor tender couch invites him to repose. 
A pigmy glass upon his toilet stands, 
Cracked o'er and o*er by awkward, clumsy hanrls ; 
Chesterfield's page polite, *The Seaman's Guide,'' 
An half-eat biscuit, Cong^eve's * Mourning Bride,' 
Bestrewed with powder, in confusion lie, 
And form a chaos to the intruding eye. 
At length this meteor of an hour is dressed, 
And rises an Adonis from his chest." 

Out of such gloomy caverns as this sprang the noble 
race of Britannia's sea warriors. It is not wonderful 
that the old sea dog should have been lacking in some- 
thing of the refinement and graces of manner which 
distinguish his successors. Yet I think we ought to 
protest against the theory that he was the compound 
of rum, oaths, and ugliness, which posterity is prone 
to consider him. It is sailors, however, who have 
helped on the notion. Literature and the sea have this 



THE OLD SEA DOG. 109 

in common— that whatever is ridiculous in the caUings, 
and held in contempt, is due to the descriptions of the 
man of letters and of the mariner. Soldiers, engineers, 
lawyers, farmers, architects, clergymen, schoolmasters 
do not write books, holding up their particular callings 
to scorn by exaggerating the features of the vocation. 
But authors have never spared one another, and if we 
hear no more of men of letters sleeping two in a bed, 
or writing with their arms thrust through a blanket 
whilst their only shirt was at wash, it is, perhaps, 
because the literary man is now able to have a bed to 
himself, and to possess shirts enough to count. The 
ludicrous and t^omewhat dishonouring figure of the old 
sea dog is a sketch in black and white by the old sea 
dog himself. Smollett, though he served in the cockpit, 
was long enough at sea to know the sailor^s life and to 
become a sailor, and his drawings have been accepted 
as models. I should think they are about as near to 
the truth as Cruikshank's caricatures. Marryalt made 
much of the traditions originated by the admirable 
author of '^Boderick Bandom." Michael Scott goes 
further yet, and in Lieutenant Sprawl presents us with 
a scarecrow by whose side the boatswain, Mr. Chucks, 
is fit to move in what Winifred Jenkins would have 
called the " quintassence of satiety." As though the 
measure of Jack's sufferings were not overflowing, 
Douglas Jerrold must needs, out of his memory of the 
brief days he had passed at sea, generate the William 
of " Black-eyed Susan ! " 

I return to Trunnion. He is the typical mariner 
of the novel, and in proportion as succeeding artists 
have caught the colours and graces of this extraordinary 
presentment, so have their endeavours been deemed 
successful, and their strokes commended. More than 
8 



no TEE OLD SEA VOG. 

one retired naval sea captain in fiction has mounted 
guns upon his lawn and fired them off whenever occasion 
demanded, and it is not hard to perceive where these 
old sea dogs found the notion. Trunnion lodged him- 
self in a house surrounded by a ditch, over which was 
Sk drawbridge, and filled his courtyard with swivel guns 
called pateraroes, which were always kept loaded with 
shot, under the direction of Lieutenant Hatchway, who 
had lost a leg whilst serving as first lieutenant on board 
the commodore's ship. His head-servant, as every 
reader of Smollett knows, was Tom Pipes, who had been 
his boatswain's mate, and whose chief business seems 
to have been to regale his master's ear ^th the dulcet 
notes of the boatswain's whistle. It is easily conceived 
that a course of Trunnion, Hatchway, and Pipes, would 
persuade the landsman that your true tar is not only 
a man who swears consumedly, but who borrows nearly 
the whole of his vocabulary from the language of the 
sea. It is unhappily difficult to find any speech that 
Smollett has put into the mouths of these three sailors 
which will bear quoting ; but surely it is inconceivable 
that the most nautical of the 'old sea dogs could have 
been so Violently professional in their jargon as were 
Trunnion and his two associates. *' Hatchway," cries 
the commodore, whose "language" must be omitted, " I 
always took you to be a better seaman than to overset 
our chaise in such fair weather. Blood ! Didn't I tell 
you we were running bump ashore, and bid you set 
in the lee-brace and haul upon a wind?" "Yes," 
replied the other, with an arch sneer, " I do confess 
as how you did give such orders after you had run us 
foul of a post, so as the carriage lay-along and could 
not right herself." " I run you foul of a post ? " cried 
the commander. " You're a pretty dog, ain't you, to 



TEE OLD SEA DOQ. Ill 

tell me so aboveboard to my face ? Did I tate charge 
of the chaise ? Did I stand at the helm ? " 

And so they go on. It is excellent fooling. There 
is no richer humour in English literature, and if sailors 
ever did talk in any time of British maritime history in 
the fashion Smollett would have us believe, one would 
wish them to speak as he makes them. But I cannot 
persuade myself that the Vernons, the Hawkes, the 
Bookes, the Monsons, the Mansells, the Howes, the 
Jarvises— 'that these and such men, and the famous and 
valiant commodores, captains, and lieutenants who 
fought under them, were as Trunnion and as Hatchway, 
leaving Pipes to represent the forecastle. Smollett's 
commodore is an exquisite libel upon Jack, and the 
country has believed in it as truth for generations. 
There is hardly less humour in this than in the portrait 
itself. The profession of the sea is represented by many 
noble families in this kingdom, and it would be interest- 
ing to know their opinion of a theory which establishes 
their progenitors as stout and valiant hearts, cased in 
frames covered with spirituous pimples, whose mouths 
are crammed with profanity and extraordinary references 
to spritsail yards, lee-braces, hencoops, and sheet 
anchors. 

There is another delightful prototype in the shape 
of Tom Bowling in "Eoderick Bandom.*' Probably 
Smollett exaggerates the costume as he does the dialect. 
If not, the old sea dog must have gone queerly clad. 
When Lieutenant Bowling is met by Boderick, the dress 
of this naval officer consisted of a soldier's coat that had 
been altered by the ship's tailor, a striped flannel jacket, 
a pair of red breeches japanned with pitch, grey worsted 
stockings, large silver buckles, a silver-laced hat, a black 
bob-wig in buckle, a check shirt, a silk handkerchief, a 



112 TUE OLD SEA LOO, 

hanger, and an oak plant under his arm. It was in this 
costume that Lieutenant Bowline took Roderick to see 
his dying grandfather, who was surrounded with weeping 
relations. Captain Oakum is another astonishing ex- 
ample of the old sea dog in fiction ; hut the oddest of 
all these wonderful old fellows is Captain Crowe, who is 
so fascinated by the armour and adventures of Sir 
Launcelot Greaves, that he commences knight-errant on 
his own account. Smollett might have spared the 
sailor this stroke. Perhaps he conceived that the jest 
would not pass with the Eoyal Navy, and so he dubs 
Crowe a merchantman. Merchant captains have made 
fools of themselves in all ages; but it is difficult to 
conceive a skipper posture-making as Don Quixote, 
delivering damsels in distress, and being charged before 
magistrates as a highwayman. The example, however, 
was too strong. Smollett had set up his standard. 
The world accepted it, and succeeding novelists con- 
firmed it by cutting and trimming to its pattern. 

Let us take a glance at another commodore, and at 
his companion, both old sea dogs in the purest sense of 
the traditionary nature of that character. He is, to 
start with, a gallant old fellow, and is dressed in faded 
nankeen trousers, discoloured cotton stockings, shoes 
with corn-holes cut in the toes, an ill-washed and 
rumpled white waistcoat, an old threadbare blue uniform 
coat, white and soapy at the seams and elbow, a dingy 
brown silk neckcloth, and an old white beaver with very 
broad brim, the snout of it fastened back to the crown 
with a lanyard of common spun yarn. This is Commo- 
dore Oakplank, and stands for a picture of a sea dog of 
from 1780 to about 1820. His companion is Lieutenant 
Sprawl. This gentleman wears a very little hat with 
scarcely any brim, the remains of the nap bleached by 



TBE OLD SEA DOG. 113 

a burning sun and splashed with spray, but garnished 
nevertheless witli a double stripe of fresh gold lace, and 
a naval button on the left side. Add to this an old- 
fashioned uniform coat, long-waisted, with very short 
skirts, a dingy white waistcoat, a great horn eyeglass, 
ancient duck trousers extending about half-way down 
the calf of the leg, " leaving his pillar-like ankles con- 
spicuously observable." 

Such are two of Michael Scott's portraitures. He 
gives Old Sprawl a nickname that Smollett would have 
relished, but neither of these gentlemen talks as his 
progenitors in fiction talked fifty years before. The sea 
dog was mending his manners. And yet, coarse and 
dishonouring, however humorous, as are the Trunnions, 
Oakums, Hatchways, and the like, better surely the 
most rampant and hectoring amongst them all than 
such a character as William in "Black-ey'd Susan.'* 
To represent the typical sailor as a drunken, brutal, 
blaspheming son of a swab is not indeed extremely 
complimentary to the two services at large. But if the 
character of the true salt is ever seriously traduced, it 
is by the dramatic virtuous sailor. I would sooner bear 
with Trunnion in his maddest tantrums for a fortnight 
than endure ten minutes of Sweet William. "Ah," he 
says, " if my Susan knew who was here she'd soon lash 
and carry, roused up by the whistle of that young boat- 
swain's mate, Cupid, piping in her heart ; " and then he 
goes on : " May my pockets be scuttled if I didn't think 
so I His Beelzebub's ship, the Law ! She's neither 
privateer, bombship, nor letter-of-marque ; she's built of 
green timber, manned with loploUoy boys and marines ; 
provisioned with mouldy biscuit and bilge water, and 
fires nothing but red-hot shot ; there's no grappling 
with or boarding her ; she always sails best in a storm, 



lU TEE OLD SEA DOO. 

and founders in fair weather. I*d sooner be sent adrift 
in the North Sea in a butter cask, with a 'bacco-box for 
my store-room, than sail in that devil's craft, the Law. 
My young grampus, I should like to have the mast- 
heading of you in a stiflf north-wester ! " 

Of all forms of nauticaHsm this is the most disastrous. 
It is inconceivable that such fustian should ever have 
been produced in and admiringly received by so great a 
maritime nation as this. If we are to believe in a sham 
let us stick to the best specimens and hold by Trunnion 
and Bowling. Seeing, however, what the old sea dog has 
done for us and for our country, it is but right, I think, 
that we should endeavour to cleanse him of something 
of these impurities of pigment, which the caricaturist 
has trowelled upon his canvas. Why people decline to 
believe that the old race of sea dogs could not have been 
gentlemen, simply because they were sailors, is not 
intelligible unless you make the odd, arch humour of 
Smollett responsible for the tradition. For my part, 
whilst I freely acknowledge them to have drunk freely 
and sworn tempestuously, I must take leave to consider 
them to have been the finest race of gentlemen, in the 
sense of the word whose definition admits of every fine 
and manly quality short of polish, that this country has 
ever produced* 



MARINE PUNISHMENTS. 

The days of whipping and pickling poor Jack are over. 
Voluminous Acts of Parliament now shelter the seaman, 
who, indeed, is represented as being so very philan- 
thropically legislated for, that owners have no remedy 
against him but the magistrate and the prison-cell, 
whilst the captain has nothing to depend upon but the 
oflScial log-book, the revolver, and those ancient arrange- 
ments originally called bilboes. It was very much other- 
wise in those by-gone times when the fine old English 
gentleman flourished. There are extant certain instruc- 
tions drawn up by Eobert, Earl of Essex, and delivered 
by him to Howard, Lord High Admiral, to be read twice 
a week to the crews of ships after Divine service. 
" Picking and stealing," says my Lord, *' you shall 
severely punish, and if the fault be great, you shall 
acquaint us therewith, that martial law shall be inflicted 
upon the offenders." Captains, are also to forbid swear- 
ing, brawling, dicing, and the like, the wrong-doers to 
be punished. Now, what sort of sentences were delivered 
in those days ? Sir William Monson, who was at sea a 
little later than that time, has told us : "A captain," 
says he, "may punish according to the offences com- 
mitted, viz., putting one in the bilboes during pleasure, 
keep them fasting, duck them at the yardarm, or haul 
them from yardarm to yardarm under the ship's keel. 



116 MARINE rUNISHMESTS. 

or make them fast to the capstan and whip them there, 
or at the -capstan or mainmast^ hang weights about 
their necks, or to ga^ and scrape their tongues for 
blasphemy or. swearmg. This will tame the most rude 
and savage people in the world.'* So one should sup- 
pose. Until I met with this passage, I was under the 
impression that the punishment of *' keel-hauling " 
originated with the Dutch. To keel-haul is to drag a 
man under a ship's bottom, " at pleasure," until the 
expression of his countenance, that has turned from 
purple into black, warns you that one more dip must 
settle him. This villainous practice was common among 
the Dutch. Very often it was inflicted as one only of 
several other punishments. In Eoggewein's voyages, a 
man falls drunk and abuses the cook, and in a fury 
stabs himself. The utmost care was taken of him till 
his wounds were cured, that he might be made an 
example of. When recovered, he was treated thus : 
First of all, he was declared infamous at the foremast ; 
he was then keel-hauled three times ; then received 
three hundred lashes ; and finally, his right hand was 
fastened to the mast with his own knife. As though 
all this should not suffice, he was chained to the fore- 
castle and only half starved, the captain not choosing 
that he should die, as he intended to set him on shore 
on the first barren uninhabited island they came across. 
Such an island was encountered off the coast of Brazil, 
about three leagues from the coast, and to it the miserable 
creature was carried and there left to perish. 

In the account of Jaques le Hermite's travels by sea, 
^ surgeon is suspected to have poisoned some of the 
crew. To make him confess, the Dutch tortured him 
by fastening heavy weights to his feet, drawing him to a 
great height and then letting him drop. Puzzled by 



MARINE PUNISHMENTS. 117 

his obduracy and insensibility they searched him for a 
charm, and found a bag hanging round his neck con- 
taining the skin and tongue of a serpent. On this being 
taken from him he confessed, and was beheaded. 

I am not sure that *' marooning " — that is, putting 
a man ashore on a desolate rock to die of thirst and 
hunger — ^was not the most savage and cruel of all the 
old punishments. Sir Francis Drake offered Doughty 
the alternative of being marooned or losing his head, 
and the man chose death by the sword. It is not in the 
power of the imagination to conceive of the anguish 
of a man left to perish on a barren island, seeing his 
ship gradually sinking in the distance and fading out 
of sight, gazing round the horrible solitude of the sea, 
seeking for water and finding none, for food, and perhaps 
beholding scarce so much as a fragment of weed. It is 
noteworthy that, brutal and revolting as were the morals 
and practices of the old filibusters, their discipline, as 
arranged among themselves, was mild in comparison 
with the punishments captains of ships were licensed 
to inflict upon their companies. Their code established 
a principle of perfect equality, and, so far as I can 
collect, the penalty of death was only imposed upon 
deserters, and upon any one who introduced a woma,n 
disguised into the vessel ; this article being due to a 
determination of these rogues to extinguish the least 
occasion for jealousy, so that they might all live together 
in brotherly love. 

No doubt, the sailor, in former times, required a 
very taut hand. We were incessantly at war; the 
press was constantly very hot, and the King's fore- 
castles were filled with men who had been torn from 
their wives and families, who had been forced out of 
peaceful trade to ply the small- arm or to man the great 



118 MAEINE PVNISEMENTS, 

ordnance, and who, until time had worn out their rage 
and grief, were very fit for treasons, stratagems, mu- 
tinies, and intestine wars. But the ferocity with which 
they were handled in olden times was monstrously in 
excess of their guilt ; and that their patriotism should 
have brightly burned in so dark and suffocating an 
atmosphere of brutality must prove, I think, that the 
application of such a gentle discipline as that of to-day 
would have won for this country even grander results 
yet than were achieved for her by those generations of 
mangled and pickled tars. We read easily of five 
hundred lashes ; but it was a fearful flogging ! ** Seven 
bells (half-past seven) came," says the late James 
Hannay, " and the hands were turned up to attend 
punishment. The ship's company gathered together in 
the waist and gangways in dense masses, close up to 
the mainmast. The officers with swords on were on 
the quarter-deck. On the starboard side of the deck, 
just abaft the gangway, stood the apparatus of punish- 
ment; two capstan-bars secured against the bulwarks, 
with a grating between them, and a grating below, con- 
stituted the simple preparation. Near this was the 
master-at-arms, with a little cup of water for the benefit 
of the victim ; and two boatswain's mates were in atten- 
dance with canvas bags containing the implements of 
torture. Take away God's sky, and the free sea round 
about, and you might have fancied you were in the 
Inquisition Chambers in their palmiest days ! " * The 
cruellest feature of this punishment was the irrespon- 
sibility of the captain with regard to the number of 
lashes ordered. A passionate man might go on increas- 
ing the beating as his rage was augmented by the sullen 
curses and mutterings of his sufferer, and there was no 

• ** Singleton Fontenoy.' 



MABINE PUNISHMENTS. 119 

law, short of the surgeon's finger on the culprit's pulse, 
to tell him when to stop. Marryatt's novels abound 
in instances of brutal captains whipping men's backs 
into rags for oflFences small enough to be fully expiated 
by stopping a day's grog. There has been much 
said — and very properly said — about the rufiianism of 
the old Yankee, and the contemporary Nova Scotia 
skipper; but, for examples of miserable and cowardly 
ruffianism in the treatment of seamen, I do not think 
we need look far a-field. Our own naval and mer- 
cantile marine annals are only too full of them. In 
the merchant service, unhappily, the law nearly always 
sided with the captain. Dana points to this in a 
supplementary chapter to his well-known sea story. He 
shows how the shipmaster came forward with a cloud 
of witnesses to his respectability and humanity; how 
his owner said he had employed him for so many years ; 
how one neighbour testified to the punctuality * with 
which he attended Divine service when ashore; how 
another neighbour deposed to his tenderness as a husband 
and his devotion as a father, and so on ; whilst of the 
poor seamen who brought the action, nothing was 
known saving that their learning went no further than 
to qualify them to sign their name by a cross, and that 
they presented a very rugged and ragged aspect in their 
rough hair, old jackets, and sea-green boots. 

Last century, a midshipman in the East India 
Company's service, sued his captain for whipping him. 
He* said he had been flogged with a cat-o'-nine tails, 
and left to lie in irons for two days. The captain 
pleaded special justification, and Lord Camden dis- 
missed the case, saying that there did not remain the 
least imputation on the captain's character. This is 
a typical instance. A man had to kill a sailor before 



120 MARINE PUNISHMENTS. 

the law looked at him; and then he needed only to 
show that if he had not done the seaman to death by 
flogging, ironing, and starving him, the ship might — ^he 
never could prove she would — have gone to the bottom. 
Some excuse for excessive whipping in olden days might 
perhaps be found. When the cat-o'-nine-tails com- 
manded the wind flogging was very well. Time was 
when French mariners believed that nothing more was 
necessary to obtain a fine breeze than to flog a boy at 
the mast. Negroes were preferred, possibly because it 
was deemed they were sent into this world to be thrashed. 
They turned the boy's or man's back to the quarter 
whence they wanted the wind to blow, and then beat 
him. The notion was not peculiar to the French, for 
I find that the Arab and Barbary corsairs, during the 
middle ages, flogged their Christian captives when their 
prayers for a favourable wind proved of no avail. 

Many desperately tragical scenes have resulted from 
the " spread-eagling " of a man at sea ready for the 
whip, by the crew throwing themselves upon the captain 
and mates, and freeing the culprit. 

The old punishment of stopping a man's grog is 
pretty nearly as dead as marooning or keel-hauling, 
simply because it is the rarest thing in the world now 
to hear of ships in which spirits are served out to the 
seamen. Formerly it was felt as a hardship that many 
men would have been glad to exchange for twenty or 
thirty lashes; because originally the allowance was 
handsome — half-a-pint a day. Moreover, prior to 1740, 
the spirits given to the seamen were undiluted. In that 
year Admiral Vernon started the practice of adding 
water to the rum, which thereupon obtained the name 
of grog from the sailors who, so the story goes, took 
the idea from " Old Grogram," the 'familiar title of the 



mahine punishments.' 121 

Admiral, suggested by the material of the coats in which 
he went dressed. Mast-heading, as we all know, was 
the peculiar punishment of midshipmen who did not 
choose to behave themselves. Sailors would not have 
been treated so; they were too useful about the deck. 
To send a lad on to the foretopsail yard for a few hours* 
airing was to pay the youth's capacity of working a 
poor compliment. In the merchant service they would 
have made such culprits slush down the royalmasts, or 
tar down a royal stay, or chip the ironwork, or polish 
the brasswork. Thus, like Dickens's moral pockethand- 
kerchiefs, the punishment would have combined pro- 
fessional instruction with the other purpose it was 
designed to fulfil. 

Hanging was very common at sea. They ran a man 
up to the yardarm for stealing or broaching cargo just 
as they hanged for robbery ashore. It was the usual 
penalty for mutiny. I once saw a marine hanged in 
China for striking his superior officer. The ceremony 
was not a little impressive, with the thunder of a gun, 
the breaking of the death-signal from the ball in which 
it had mounted to the masthead, the swift soaring aloft 
of the figure of the malefactor, its abrupt drop, and 
ghastly, pendulous swaying. At home this hanging 
business went on with stereotyped precision. The 
prisoner, attended by the provost-marshal with a drawn 
sword, ascended the gangway, and walked with a firm 
step to the platform, where he usually acknowledged the 
justness of the sentence — poor wretch ! — then the fatal 
bow-gun was fired, and he was launched into eternity 
at the starboard foreyardarm. All the boats of the 
fleet, manned and armed, came in a procession to the 
spectacle ; and the picture was made uncommonly 
dismal by a yellow flag at the masthead of the admiral's 



122 MARINE PUNISEMENTS, 

ship— the signal for an execution. Those were taut- 
handed days. Nor was it only Jack who was punished. 
A man named Hewett, a purser, for obtaining a small 
stock of meat from the victualling people under false 
pretences, was sentenced to be imprisoned for two years 
in Newgate, and during that period to stand in the 
pillory for one hour, " between the hours of twelve at 
noon and two in the afternoon, in the public street near 
Charing Cross, opposite to the gates of the Admiralty." 
And this so recently as 1802. Think of the pillory in 
these days as a contribution to the solution of ordnance 
and other difficulties ! 

But the truest policy, then as now, occurs in the 
advice an old naval captain sent to his son in a letter. 
Speaking of the captain, he wrote : " Let me earnestly 
recommend it to him, not to show too great an inclina- 
tion to punish, because he has power ; on the contrary, 
I would have his humanity display itself even in his 
chastisements. Punishment is of too serious a nature 
to be wantonly inflicted or made too free with on every 
slight offence. A gentle reproof often reclaims ; besides, 
to punish with the utmost rigour is brutality, not 
justice." The good and lion-hearted Saumarez acted 
on this principle with notable success. Whilst off the 
Spanish coast the spirit of mutiny showed itself in the 
squadron he commanded. One of the worst of the muti- 
neers was a ship's carpenter, who had on many occa- 
sions proved himself an intrepid and excellent seaman. 
He was tried for his life. Lord, then Sir James, Sau- 
marez, sent for him, and by appealing to the culprit's 
feelings, worked so thorough a reformation in him that 
he became one of the most loyal of his sailor^. This 
same man was afterwards captain of a gun at the Battle 
of the Nile, and was instrumental after the action in 
preserving the Peuple Souverain from foundering. 



MARINE PUNISHMENTS. 123 

Another instance may be found in Admiral Duncan's 
life. There were symptoms of mutiny on board the 
Venerable ; the admiral ordered all hands on deck, and, 
addressing one of the mutineers, said, "Do you want 
to take the command of this ship out of my hands ? " 
" Yes," replied the man. Duncan raised his sword, but 
was prevented from running the man through by his 
chaplain and secretary. He cried out, " Let those who 
will stand by me and my officers pass over' immediately 
to the starboard side, that we may know who are our 
friends." Six of the crew alone remained ; they were 
seized, ironed, and lodged in the gun-room, "from 
whence," the account goes on, pointing the moral I 
am aiming at, " they were afterwards liberated one by 
one, after showing those signs of real penitence which 
induced the admiral, by well-timed acts of lenity, to 
endear himself, if possible, still more to a faithful crew." 
We have learnt the lesson in this age, and are surely 
not worse off in consequence. We no longer suffer men 
to be hanged, whipped, pickled, tarred and feathered, 
marooned, keel-hauled, hoisted and dropped with a few 
hundred pounds of iron seized to their feet, at the sweet 
will of the lords paramount of the quarter-deck. The 
merchant sailor, as well, has found friends and protec- 
tion in the law. If he be maltreated now it is at the 
peril of the man who abuses his power. 



CALMS AND SEAS. 

*' The experience," writes Sir Eichard Hawkins, "I had 
in anno 1590, lying with a fleet of her Majesty's ships 
about the islands of the Azores almost six months, the 
greatest part of the time we being becalmed ; with which 
the sea became so replenished with several sorts of 
jellies, and forms of serpents, adders, and snakes, as 
seemed wonderful ; some green, some black, some 
yellow, some white, some of divers colours, and many 
of them had life, and some there were a yard and a half 
and two yards long ; which had 1 not seen I could have 
hardly believed." 

It would be a curious coincidence that Coleridge 
should have put much such another description as this 
into the mouth of his Ancient Mariner, if it were not 
that there is clear evidence of his having been a reader 
of old Purchas, in which the above sentences may be 
found, as he himself admits when he tells how the dream 
of Xanadu and Kubla Khan came into his brain on his 
falling asleep over the worthy old ** Pilgrime's " folio. 
Be this as it may, the " dead calm " does not pertain, 
unfortunately, to Elizabethan annals only; though 
there is good reason to suppose that the marine corpse- 
lights, the weird burning of the water, the slimy things 
crawling about upon the viscous sea, offered themselves 
to the sight of no later generation of nautical men than 



CALMS AND SEAS. 125 

that to which Coleridge's lean and yellow salt belonged. 
I was much struck by a singular example of a spell of 
unfanned motionless sea given in the form of extracts 
from the log-book of a Dutch barque named the Nereus, 
whilst on a voyage to Amsterdam from Java. The 
account ran as follows : — the vessel reached the neigh- 
bourhood of the Equator on February 15. At times 
she would glide along at about half a mile an hour, but 
during several watches she did not go forward at all, 
and "then she did not steer." There is a touch of 
Dutch artlessness in this confession, as though Mynheer 
the Master should own to a little surprise that a vessel 
without way on her should not answer her helm. On 
February 19 it was a dead calm for twenty-four hours. 
On March 6 a very faint air blew. *' From March 16 
till April 9, light breeze ; the vessel made a mile and a 
half, a mile, or nothing per watch." From April the 
18th to the 22nd the catspaws hung south-west; but 
there was no weight in them to propel the ship. Then 
the breeze freshened and came on to blow a gale ; yet 
for two months and one week, or in round numbers for 
sixty-three days, the good barque Nereus of Amsterdam 
— Seinstra, master — was scarcely more than a painted 
ship upon a painted ocean. 

The Steam Fiend may well triumph when he reads 
such records as this. There are steamers which occupy 
but a few more days in making the voyage, out and 
home, to Australia than the time taken by the Nereus 
to " cut the Line," as the old saying was. Imagination 
fondly dwells upon the faces and tempers of the Dutch 
crew as day after day came round " und der vass no 
vindt." How much whistling was included in those 
sixty-three days? How many forefingers were wetted 
and held up ? How ofte^ was the dog- vane glared at ? 
9 



126 CALMS AND SEAS. 

The sea-blessings showered upon the wretched catspaws 
coming along in a little curl of blue shadow, and expiring 
in their efforts to reach the barque may be conceived. 
The Dutch are a steady, phlegmatic people of a temper 
not easily disturbed ; but sixty-three days of calm, and 
the ship homeward bound too, having come all the way 
from Java, and climbed round the Cape, would go far to 
vex the soul even of a Van Dunk, who, because he never 
got drunk, is universally admired as one of the best 
examples of sound Holland principles. 

It has been truly said that there is no sentiment at 
sea. Passengers feel this as fully as sailors. Once 
embarked the business is to arrive, and poetry, par- 
ticularly when its presentments are of a hindering sort, 
becomes an objection and a nuisance. Otherwise there 
is no condition or circumstance of a voyage so purely 
romantic in its colouring and suggestions as the dead 
calm. By this is meant profound stagnation of the 
atmosphere ; for, as to the sea, it is rare indeed to find 
the great ocean sleeping without some slight heaving of 
its mighty bosom. The Equatorial sun shines at noon, 
in the middle of the brassy heavens, like a fiery eye 
sending the white beam of its glance sheer to the green 
ooze, as one might fancy, a thousand fathoms deep. 
The horizon writhes in the palpitating ardency of the 
dim blue air ; the swell brims in oil to the blistered hot 
wet sides of the ship, and here and there the black fin of 
a shark dazzles out to the heave of the dark blue fold. 
Twenty draughts of air from all quarters fan the steam- 
ing decks with the swaying of the lower canvas, and 
keep the eye impatiently glancing around for the shadow 
of wind upon the water. "Whatever is touched is so hot 
that if the hand lingers a bit it is brought away scorched. 
The wheel kicks sullenly in the Bulky hold of the helms- 



0ALM8 AND SEAS. ^ 127 

man. Yet there is magnificence inexpressible in this 
solemn sleep of the ocean under the silent heavens. A 
shaft of splendour lies beneath the sun, and there is not 
the faintest finger of air to break with slender furrow 
the exquisite clearness of the outline of mirrored glory. 
The white brow of a cloud may tremble for a little while 
over the confines of the deep ; but it dissolves before it 
can soar, and the dome arches up in several tints of 
cerulean blue until it brightens into pale gold round 
about the sun. 

It is impossible to observe such effects in a steamer. 
Progress is incessant, and the vessel raises a small gale 
for herself to blow along her decks. The Dutchmen, how- 
ever, saw it all, and they did not find it beautiful. There 
was nothing even in schnapps to make sixty-three days 
of calm endurable. Canopied by a hovering heaven of 
stars, the cool sweetness of the night could not console 
them. How many new moons were they going to see 
before Amsterdam hove in view ? The crew, doubtless, 
could think of nothing more in their sudoriferous barque. 
Venus exhibited her silver beauty in vain ; the Southern 
Cross was, like the sign of the Flying Dutchman, hang- 
ing low over the southern horizon ; they cared for Ursa 
Major only, and yearned to see the Pole Star floating 
high. It is easy to imagine the incredulity with which 
they listened to the first pipings of the north-easter. 
The whistling in the rigging would be like ironical 
imitations of their own efforts to court the breeze. 
They could have prayed against no worse wind than a 
gale from the north and east ; but after sixty-three days 
of calm a month's hurricane dead ahead would, we may 
be sure, have been almost as welcome to them as the 
sight of the Schreyerstoren. . 

Seeing that, though there are a great number of 



128 CALMS AND SEAS, 

steamers independent of all breezes afloat, there are 
also very many sailing vessels of all kinds voyaging 
in every direction, it is much to be regretted that the 
power possessed by ancient seamen of controlling the 
wind should in this age be a lost art. The calm is still 
ofttimes with us ; but where is the magician, where 
the Pin, the image of the patron saint, the numerous 
devices by which sailors in former ages delivered their 
ships out of stagnant seas and proceeded on their voyage 
with a merry gale making music in their shrouds ? 
Father Dominick Navarette in the seventeenth century 
discovered certain, infallible signs of wind. One never 
failing token '* was the running and fluttering about of 
little insects aboard the ship, and the more restless they 
are the higher the wind, and by observing what place 
they come from mariners shall know if it will be fair." 
Another sign, according to his reverence, is when pigs 
begin to run and tumble about a ship in a calm. Baum- 
garten, in his ** Travels," says he was with a pilot who, 
by putting his finger in his mouth, and then holding it 
up, ''prognosticated to us that we should have wind 
very speedily, which indeed proved accordingly." All 
that the modern sailor can do by wetting his finger an I 
lifting it is to feel if there be any movement in the air. 
The digit has long ceased to be a sybil. Formerly the 
Brittany fishermen raised the wind at wiU by procuring 
the dust swept out of a certain church, and blowing it 
in the direction from which they desired the breeze to 
come. Sardinian sailors also possessed the same useful 
art ; to procure a fine wind they had nothing to do but 
to sweep a chapel after mass and blow the dust of it 
after departing ships. It would be interesting to know 
if the crew of the Dutch barque practised any of these 
devices during their long detention upon the Equator? 



CALMS AND SEAS. 129 

Did they scratch the foremast with a nail ? Had they 
a Bussian Fin among them, and, if so, did they try the 
experiment of locking him away in the forepeak until he 
chose to bring about a wind ? Ancient mariners, were 
they living, might hardly deem this generation of sailors 
reasonable in ridiculing the old plans without trying 
them. For instance, there is an ancient Dutch notion 
that if you have long had a contrary wind, and meet a 
ship bound in the opposite direction, by throwing a 
broom at her the wind will at once grow fair for you. 
Possibly the Dutch barque did not meet with any vessel 
in those sixty- thi:ee days on which to try the experi- 
ment ; but supposing a craft to have come stealing her 
way from one catspaw to another, surely there would 
be enough old scrubbing-brushes " knocking about " to 
render a trial of the Holland custom both cheap and 
practicable. It is admitted that Van Tromp's broom at 
the masthead was regarded by his sailors as the instru- 
ment that supplied him with fair winds. Be all this as 
it may, sixty- three days of dead calm, in which long 
weeks the ship thus paralyzed makes scarcely a dozen 
miles of progress, is so wearisome an incident of a 
voyage by canvas that it ought to suggest to mariners 
of all nations the expediency of " looking up " some of 
the old treatments for this kind of oceanic distemper. 
There is no reason in the world why our great-grand- 
fathers' tricks of raising the wind — if ever successful — 
should be left to lie entombed amongst the lost arts. 

Happily, however, for the "tacks-and-sheetsman,** 
is not always a clock-calm at sea. And it is equally 
fortunate for the artistic and imaginative mind — when 
lodged in frames insusceptible of the effect of pitching 
and rolling — that there should be such things as, to use 
the language of the land, waves. Appeals have again 



130 OALm AND BEAa. 

and again been made to the officers of the mercantile 
marine to dedicate their leisure on shipboard to the 
measuring of the height of waves. It is felt that the 
merchant captain and mate are seafarers who experi- 
ence every kind of weather, and navigate all the great 
oceans, and that they have opportunities, therefore, of 
collecting data on the subject of waves which are denied 
to the gentlemen of the navy. On the whole, it must 
be said that very little is known of the altitude of the 
surge, and that a considerable extension of knowledge 
in this direction is demanded in the interest of the ship* 
builder as well as the mariner. A scientific gentleman, 
not very long ago, declared it impossible that the tallest 
sea could exceed six feet, because, he added, the most 
furious tempest has not a penetrating power beyond 
that depth ! It will be supposed that he was never 
off Gape Horn, and that he based his theories on 
the disturbance during a breezy hour of the surfaces 
of the Bound Pond and the Eegent's Canal. Dr. 
Scoresby pronounced the seas of the Atlantic during 
heavy weather to run to a height of from forty to forty- 
five feet. This may well be regarded as a great isea, but 
it would be interesting to know the elevation of the 
waves of the South Pacific in high latitudes during a 
hurricane, since it is certain that for magnitude and 
velocity the seas of the North Atlantic are not com- 
parable with the stupendous folds which are set running 
by the storm along the vast stretch of waters which 
girdles the Southern Hemisphere. 

" A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." A wave is 
a thing of beauty, but it is only a joy to those who 
watch it marching in splendour and foam from the safe 
refuge of the shore. It is a very nauseating condition 
of voyaging. It makes the bones of ships creak as if 



CALMS AND SEAS. 131 

they were full of rheumatism. It fills the brain with a 
sense of chaos, and one moment swings the moaning 
traveller to the stars, and the next plunges him into an 
abyss hideous with gloom and the hissing as of millions 
of snakes. To measure waves in a severe tempest is 
even more difficult than to mark effects. When the 
weather rises to such fury as makes the seas colossal 
enough to render the determination of their height 
exceedingly important, there is usually too much anxiety, 
and even distraction, for observation. The weight of 
the wind is so violent that it is almost impossible to 
show one's face to it. The ship, whether a sailing 
vessel or a steamer hove too, plunges so abominably 
that a man's main concern is to hold on and save him- 
self from being drowned should one of the frothing 
mountains tumble on board. There may be other 
reasons why the officers of the mercantile marine have 
not very zealously devoted their leisure to measuring 
the height of waves. But more information than may 
already be found collected is badly wanted, and unques- 
tionably captains and mates would be doing substantial 
service by neglecting no opportunity to ascertain, by 
the best means in their power, the true altitude of 
ocean seas. 

From the little blue curliog ripple of the catspaw, 
softly travelling in an expiring sigh over the burnished 
surface of the calm, to the tall furious dissolving liquid 
cliffs of the great deep maddened by tempest, is a vast 
stride, and a hundred pictures lie between. Beauty is 
so rapidly merged into terror, that it requires the inclu- 
sion of several conditions to preserve it. A man may 
at six o'clock in the evening be admiring a scene from 
the deck of a ship which an hour later has grown 
frightful enough to despatch him below to his prayers. 



182 CALMS AND SEAS. 

One wants daylight for a storm ; the imagination may 
be kept cool in the presence of the visible, but when the 
darkness falls and the scene becomes a thunderous 
shadow of blocks of blackness, scintillant with the dust 
of the sea fire, fancy quits its posture of admiration and 
the mind can do little more than wonder whether day 
will ever break over the ship again. Possibly one of the 
finest storm spectacles ever witnessed was in the Bay of 
Bengal. It was midnight. On the port side of the ship, 
the sky was black with thunder clouds, whose swollen 
outlines were revealed by the incessant play of lightning. 
The thunder was shock after shock of explosions. On 
the starboard side of the ship the full moon would some- 
times dart an icy beam through rifts in the black wings 
of electric vapour. Meanwhile it was blowing a gale of 
wind, and a high sea was running. The effect of the 
play of the lightning, and the occasional glance of the 
brilliant moon upon the dark coils of the seas melting 
into foam may be imagined. The alternations of light 
were reduplicated by the flashings of phosphorus, with 
which the water was charged to an uncommon degree. 
The picture was magnificently unearthly, and outside 
the pages of Milton without expression in literature. 

But for the true Andean sea one must go down to 
Cape Horn, perhaps to as far as sixty degrees south. 
There are sailors who, standing at the wheel of a ship 
running before these seas, will never willingly look 
behind them, lest the sight of the oncoming rampart of 
green water arching towards the taffrail should unnerve 
them. Standing on a deck twenty feet above the water 
line you yet look up at the crest of these seas as at 
the top of a mountain. The gigantic grace, the huge 
majesty of these liquid Titans cannot be described. It 
is necessary to be hove to to appreciate their height, 



CALMS AND SEAS, 188 

volume, and power ; to watch from the low broadside 
the swelling approach of the mighty mass, with its 
freckled front and foamless head flickering in bottle 
green to the dull light of the grey sky ; to feel the sweep 
of the ship up the enormous acclivity, and then whilst, 
for the space of a breath only, she hangs poised with 
upright masts and shrieking rigging on the headlong 
brow, to look down and behold the valley beneath, into 
which the vessel an instant after slides like a comet. 
It is difficult to write of the seas which run in heavy 
weather off the southernmost point of South America 
without risk of being charged with exaggeration ; they 
must be seen, and a little spell of custom will render 
admiration easy. It is impossible to be tossed by them 
in such vessels as now make the passage of the Horn, 
without wondering by what miracle of luck or phenome- 
nal merit of seamanship the old navigators were enabled 
to beat against them in their small half-decked boats, 
some no bigger than a Deal lugger, without a touch of 
the weatherly qualities of such craft. 

There are some curious superstitions concerning 
waves. It was formerly held amongst certain of the devout 
that the commotion of the sea was owing to the serpents 
which St. Patrick had imprisoned in a box when he cast 
them out of Ireland. The Arab sailors believed that 
the high seas off the coast of Abyssinia were enchanted, 
and whenever they found themselves amongst them they 
recited verses which were supposed to subdue them. 
An old traveller, in a voyage from Messina to Malta, 
writes that he saw the captain, an old and experienced 
sailor, standing at the bow muttering and pointing with 
his finger. On being asked what he was doing, he 
replied that he was breaking the force of a fatal wave 
by making the sign of the cross, and saying the prayers 



134 CALMS AND SEAS. 

proper for the occasion. He said that every ninth wave 
was the dangerous one. The writer adds, ** And as the 
ship was immediately driven more violently, and the 
water suddenly beat high over it, *This,* said he, *is 
the ninth. Take the number and count on.' Strange 
enough every ninth wave was much greater than any 
of the others, and threatened the ship with immediate 
destruction. This wave, however, whenever it approached, 
the captain, by his muttering and signing of the cross, 
seemed to break, and the danger was averted." Tenny- 
son refers to this peculiar surge in the Holy Grail, when 
he says — 

** Till last a ninth one, gathering half the deep, 
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged, 
Boaring ; and aU the wave was in a flame." 

Perhaps some modem skipper, whose decks have 
been swept, and who knows what the meaning of the 
word " pooped " is, may be induced to take the trouble 
to hunt up the old formula for allaying the sea in a 
tempest. A few verses such as the Arab's chant would 
be a cheaper and much less troublesome application 
than oil, and if the spell saved the cook's galley and a 
quarter-boat or two the captain, however modern in his 
literary tastes, might not consider his inquiries into the 
black-letter age to have been wholly without purpose. 
But let it not be supposed that the high wave is the 
dangerous one. The regular running surges may all 
be as tall as the biggest hotel in London, with a ninth 
fellow amongst them as high as the Monument, and yet 
not prove nearly so dangerous as the pyramidal seas of 
the cyclone. Of all forms of vexed water the cyclonic 
agitation is the worst. Here is a whirlwind of astonish- 
ing fury so many miles in diameter. For a little while 
it runs a steady sea, but presently its gyrations bring 



CALBiS AND SEAS. 135 

np a snrge from another quarter ; then comes the lull, 
followed by a frightful outfly of storm from a direction 
opposite to the point from which the wind last blew. 
The seas, coming into collision, fight like wolves. They 
snap and howl, leaping high in conified shapes in the 
very similitude of sentient passion. The staggering of 
the ship is indescribable. There is no rhythmic swing to 
give to her motions something of the vibrations of the 
pendulum. Her decks are filled with water. Whilst her 
bows dive into a chasm that has opened under her fore- 
foot, a valley yawns under her stern, and a hill of water 
flashes up on either side. It has not been suggested 
that the altitude of the cyclonic wave should be deter- 
mined. Probably there is no eye afloat equal to such 
an undertaking. 

Another very uncomfortable sea is the volcanic wave. 
It is not very long ago that a vessel steaming through 
quiet waters on a dark night was suddenly hurled up by 
an invisible billow that was reckoned to be between 
thirty and forty feet high. Three such waves passed 
under her, the last being the least in volume, and then 
all was dead flatness of ocean again. The stoutest 
heart might well thump to such an encounter as this. 
To see a wave coming is to be prepared; but to be 
tossed from the tender delight of a dead level on a dark 
night into throes as violent as ever hurricane wrought 
in water, is one of the most alarming of sensations. 
People fall out of bed, the captain, who is asleep in his 
chart-house, is tumbled on to the deck, and reckons his 
ship to have gone ashore in a gale of wind ; there are 
many distracting noises of broken crockery, much panic 
amongst the cocks and hens and turkeys, loud cries from 
the passengers' berths, and confused shouts in the 
forecastle. The slipping into still water again merely 



136 CALMS AND SEAS. 

heightens the general bewilderment. Waves of this kind 
are caused by submarine earthquakes, and it is very 
fortunate, indeed, both for passengers and sailors, that 
they are exceedingly rare. 

It is not necessary to go to the great oceans for bad 
seas. The nasty snappish wave of the narrow waters 
may be too insignificant to be worth measuring, but no 
more uncomfortable surge runs, as most people know 
who have crossed the English Channel or the Irish Sea, 
in what 'longshoremen call dirty weather. 

Yet, despite its terrors, the wave remains a thing of 
beauty. There is nothing so triumphant in life, nothing 
that rears itself so royally, with its plumed head and 
resistless advance. In all forms it is glorious, rising in 
sublimity as it grows. What is there to surpass in that 
particular quality of magnificence with which old ocean 
endows its creations the giant comber of the Western 
American and South African seaboards ? There is 
inexpressible solemnity of grace in its slow approach 
upon the shore, and in the regal obeisance of its tower- 
ing head, the plumed gear of which it seems to doff as it 
bends and breaks into a snowstorm in thunder which 
finds echoes as of an organ in the caverns and hollows 
of the cliffs. The height of a breaker of this kind might 
be easily got, for it is hardly less tall in fine than it 
is in heavy weather. It is not, however, the altitude 
of the comber that is wanted, but that of the great 
mid-ocean seas through which the ships go plunging. 
Further experiments in this direction are required, and 
science would certainly be served by their being under- 
taken. 



'LONGSnOREMAN'S YARNS. 

I WAS sitting on the beach of a South-coantry watering 
place, with a book on my knee and an umbrella over 
my head. A 'longshoreman stood behind. I had 
glanced at him, and was on the whole well pleased with 
his appearance. He was the most nautical 'longshore- 
man I had ever beheld. He was dressed in a complete suit 
of pilot cloth, though the thermometer stood at eighty- 
two degrees in the shade. His hair fell in ringlets down 
his head, and his black beard was trimmed so as to 
stand out from undet his chin like the tail of a bird. 
He had very small black eyes, and a face dotted with 
pock-marks. I had noticed him before, and he had 
impressed me with the fancy of a mariner who had 
been cast away on a desert island for a number of years, 
during which time he had eaten nothing but grass and 
barnacles, and who, being rescued by a ship, had been 
made clean and comfortable by the loan of a suit of 
clothes. I was looking at my book when I heard some 
one address him. I peeped cautiously under the 
umbrella, and saw a tall, knock-kneed young man in 
white flannels and a straw hat, prominent eyes, and 
an open mouth. The youth asked the 'longshoreman 
some question about lifeboats, and then he wanted to 
know what was the difference between a cutter and 
a brig, and if the 'longshoreman had ever saved a human 



138 'LONQSHOHEMAN'S TARNS. 

life, and, if so, what reward did he get. Questions of 
this sort were multiplied, and by a peculiar tone in the 
answers returned by the 'longshoreman I gathered that 
he was quietly taking stock of his open-mouthed young 
friend. 

" Were you ever in danger ? " inquired the young 
gentleman. 

**What sort o' danger?" responded the other. "I 
was once nigh marrying a woman that turned out to 
have buried four husbands in eighteen year, but I didn't 
know it. D'ye mean danger of that kind ? " 

" Oh no ! " said the other, speaking very gravely, 
*' I mean the dangers of the sea. I suppose you have 
been a sailor ? " 

" You may suppose, sir," exclaimed the 'longshore- 
man with emphasis. ** Why, Gor bless my soul, I went 
to sea when I wur two . year old, and only knocked off 
four year ago." 

" Keally ! at two years. In what capacity ? " 

*^ Why, as a hinfant in the custody o' his mother," 
said the 'longshoreman. 

I could pretty well foresee what was coming. Here 
was a youth who wanted to be able to go home to tea 
and tell his mother and sisters, and perhaps his grand- 
mother, that he had been having a talk with one of the 
most wonderful old sailors that was ever heard of — a 
seasoned tar, a hardy salt, a real seaman, much more 
exciting than the sailors you read about in novels? 
'Longshoremen are on the look-out for weak-kneed, 
large-eyed young men of this description, and to the 
gentleman with the corkscrew-ringlets the young fellow 
in flannels was what he himself would call a ** job." 

** Then you have really been in danger at sea ? " 

'*Ayl See that there row o' men in feamaught 



'L0NGSH0BEMAN*8 YABN8. 139 

trousers a leaning over th* rail ? Werry well. One of 
'em is two an' seventy year of age, and ne*er a man 
amongst 'em bnt what*B seen perils enough to turn 
a Apothecary's hair white. Now, I tell yer what you 
shall do. You shall tarn to and roll up all them men's 
experiences in one parcel, and I tell ye the least o' 
what I've suffered would drag the whole bilin' of it up 
if it were moored thirty fathom deep with an anchor 
that hadn't bin' lifted eighty year." 

" Really ! " said the young man. 

** Why, see here," cried the 'longshoreman, feigning 
a sudden excitement, as if memory had been somewhat 
abruptly touched, " I'll gi' ye one danger, to start with. 
I was in th' mizen-riggin' of a big ship that was hout- 
ward boun' to th' coast of Californie. It was blowing 
a fresh^reeze of wind dead astarn, but the sky was blue 
as this here is ; ay, just as blue. Well, I can't rightly 
remember the particular job I was on, but I recollect 
of goin* on with it for some time, when casting my eyes 
astarn I seed a cloud like a b'loon coming up right in 
the tail of our wake. It drawed nearer and rearer, and 
the nearer it drawed of course the bigger it growed. 
I seed it, as I told ye ; but supposin' that the mate seed 
it tew I says nothing, but went on quietly with my 
work. It worn't until tbat there cloud had put the sun 
out that the mate took notice o' him, and then I seed 
him a-cockin' of his hye aloft. Presently the cloud was 
drawed right overhead, and was a regular downright 
thunder-cloud, coming out the blacker for the sun that 
shone out all round. When he'd come right on top of 
us, as it might be, he seemed to stand still, as if taking 
a surwey o' th' wesseU The mate suddenly sings 
out, * By thunder ! Perkins, if the lightning-conductor 
ain't stopped to the foot of the stay ! If that there 



HO 'L0NG8n0REMAN*a YARNS, 

cloud womits a blast the Lord ha' mercy on our 
souls.' " 

" Extraordinary ! " said the knock-kneed young man. 

" ' Jump, Perkins/ cries the mate, *' as if yer 
mother-in-law was in chase o' ye, and cut the con- 
ductor adrift and let the end tow overboard.* I'm the 
man, sir, as would walk into a lion's den when the 
hanimals was waracious with waiting fur their raw 
meat and sit down and think nothin' of it. I'm a cove 
as 'ud man that there lifeboat if so be as my arms had 
the strength for to row her, though ne'er another party 
along the coast woulunteered. But when it came to 
my having to handle a lightning-conductor with the 
cloud overhead just quietly waiting for me to touch it 
to let fly, I hung a moment in th' wind ; but the true 
character of the British tar was too strong "for me. 
' Hobey borders if yer break owners,' is the old saying. 
Sailors o' my kind. always puts dooty first and death 
last. I pulled out my sheath-knife, jumped out o' th' 
mizzen-riggin', and ran across to the main 'royal back- 
stay, down which the conductor was led. I was within 
two foot of it, when there was sich a blaze that 'twas 
like a man putting his head into the sun. Down I fell 
in a faint. When I comes to I finds all the steel o' my 
knife melted, and my fingers a clutching the bone haft. 
An' what else d'ye think had happened? The taw- 
gallantm'st and topm'st was split, and the whole mess 
of it had come down. Besides that there was twenty 
foot of the rail close to which I was a-stahdin' smashed 
sheer overboard. Now, sir, go an' ask any of them men 
leaning over that there rail if they can match this." 

" 'Pon my honour, it's extraordinary ! " said the 
young man. 

** I'll tell ye a more amazing thing, yet," continued 



'LONOSHOBEMAN'S 7ABN8. Ml 

Perkins. ** I was aboard a ship boun' to the North of 
Chiney. There ain't no part of the world that I 'aven't 
wisited. One day I was sent <aloft to paint the royal- 
m'st-head from what we calls at sea the hyes of the 
riggin'. We was a passenger ship, an* there was ladies 
on the poop, no awnings spread, everything clear to the 
hye. I was an ordinary seaman in them days, nimble 
as a monkey, and never met any man as could beat me 
at the hornpipe. As I was painting away aloft it entered 
my head that if I was to git upon the truck and stan' 
upright upon it the ladies would be pleased with the 
sight, and perhaps take some notice of me fur the rest 
o' th* woyage. There was a spike fixed top of the 
truck about the length of your leg, sir. This here spike 
was intended to carry what they calls a wane, to show 
how the wind blows ; but there was no wane upon it, 
and the spike stood up naked. Well, no sooner thought 
on than done. I whips on to the truck, and clippin' 
hold of the spike stood up waiting to be took notice of. 
The ship wur rolling and pitching a bit, and the motion, 
as you may reckon, was pretty strong up atop of the 
mast. Finding it tidy tiring work, and none of the 
ladies a-looking, I was for coming down, when, in some 
way there's no 'splaining of, I wriggled my onmention- 
ables on to the spike, which held me like a butcher's 
skewer. I tried hard to get adrift, but there was no 
releasing of myself. I could have cut away with my 
knife, but there's no cause to explain to a high-minded 
young gentleman, as I see you are, the reasons why 
I didn't. I don't know that ever a mortual mariner was 
in such a hawfal situation afore. It makes me giddy, 
now that I'm an old man, even to think of it. The spike 
wouldn't allow me that give and swing of th' leg which 
I had when I was a-holding of it, and every instant 



142 ^LONGSBOBEMAirS TABN3, 

I expected to slip and find myself hanging by nothin' 
stronger than my trousers at a height of — well, I dare 
say ye might call it a hundred and eighty feet." 

** Awful ! *• exclaimed the young gentleman. 

''Presently," continued the longshoreman, "the 
chief mate catches sight of me, and sings out, 'Aloft 
there ! What are ye up to a-tomfoolin* on that there 

truck ? Lay down, d ye hear, or * an' here he 

cussed and swore horrible," 

" Lay down ! " exclaimed the young gentleman. 
** What could he mean ? " 

" He meant * come down * ; but * lay down ' *s the 
proper term fur " come down " at sea. * I can't lay 
dovm, sir,' I bawled, *I'm hooked, sir. There's the 
spike of the wane gone clean through me, sir.* Every- 
body was now looking up, as you may suppose. It was 
like being in the clouds to me, and I couldn't hear 
a word that was said, 'cepting when I was yelled at. 
The captain was sent for, and he 'rived with his speak- 
ing-trumpet and shouted, * Perkins, come down.' I 
told him I couldn't, and that I'd forfeit all my wages 
if I was able to come down. Then they took a look 
at me through a telescope, and afterwards sent the 
boatswain aloft, who came as high as th' royal yard 
and viewed me. *Bo'sun,' says I, *ye see how it is,' 
says I. 'I feel already wonderfully queer and sick,' 
I says, says I ; * and if I*m to be kept a standing up here 
much longer,' I says, says I, ' without something being 
done to deliver of me I*m a dead man,' I says, says I. 
* Well, Perkins,' he says, says he, * 111 go below an' tell 
the capt'n yer condition,' he says, siys he, ' and we'll 
have to tarn to an' see what's to be done fur ye.' Well, 
to cut this here yam short, what do you think they had 
to do at last ? Why, strike the mast," 



^LONGSHOREMAN'S YARNS, 148 

" Strike the mast I " exclaimed the young gentleman, 
in a Yoice that showed his mind hopelessly fogged. 

"Ay," exclaimed Perkins emphatically, "strike the 
mast with me atop of it. They had to send the royal 
and tawgallant yards down, reeve the mast-rope, and 
lower away until they brought me on to a level with the 
topm'st head. They had to use the knife after all to 
get me adrift. I was an hour on that there truck, and 
if you was a sailor, sir, and could onderstand what it was 
to stand on the top of a lofty mast, on a circular piece 
of wood about as big as the crown of a straw 'at, with 
nothin' to hold on to and nothin' to support ye but a 
spike through yer onmentionables, and then to have to 
undergo all the jerks and wibrations of being lowered, 
you*d agree with me that there ain't nothin' in sea stories 
as beats the like o' that experience." 

" It is too awful, you know, really," exclaimed the 
youth. 

"But arter all," continued Perkins after a short 
silence, " that there truck job is a mere moskeetee-bite 
'longside what happened to me once in a woyage round 
the world an' back agin. We was an old-fashioned ship 
and carried what was called single taws'ls." 

" Oh, indeed," exclaimed the young gentleman. 

" Ay, single taws'ls. It was in the middle watch ; 
I was below, sleeping soundly. Nothin' could ever stop 
ma from sleeping soundly. They say it's a sign of a 
first-rate seaman. I believe it is myself. All on a 
sudden I was woke up by a terrible thumping, and as 
usual was the first on deck. The ship was on her beam 
ends an' half a gale o' wind a-blowin'. Well, we let go 
and clewed hup and got her middlin' easy. The watch 
I was in was told to jump aloft and put two reefs in the 
foretaws'l, and then furl it. Werry well, I was in th' 



144 'LONGSHOBEMAirS YABN8. 

bunt and the sail was clewed hup. It was so black that 
sleep itself ain't blacker. Ye couldn't see an inch, and 
everything had to be done by feelin'. I was leanin* 
over the yard to help haul the slack o' th' sail hup when 
I overbalanced myself and fell. I fell right forrard over 
the yard, but instead of striking the deck I was caught 
in th' bight o' th' canvas that the men was furlin*, which, 
by being triced up by the bunt-lines and the likes o' them 
ropes hung like a hammock under the yard. I sung out 
at the top o* my woice, but to no purpose. The wind 
was screeching horrible, and the men not bein' able to 
see had to yell to each other, and I was a bit muffled 
up too down there, so that in th' general confugion my 
woice wasn't heard. Well, what d'ye think was th' end 
on it. Hang me, sir, if they didn't stow me in th* bunt 
of that there sail, and make as smooth a job o' me wid 
their bunt gaskets as if they was goin' into 'arbour. All 
night long the gale blowed, and all night long I laid in 
the heart o' that there taws'l." 

** How awfully beastly ! " exclaimed the young gentle- 
man. " I wonder you weren't smothered." 

"Ay, an' so I nearly was. Yet I must ha' made 
shift to breathe somehow or huther, I suppose. All the 
blessed while I was a thinking, when it comes on fine, 
they'll set this here sail, and when they let's fall the 
bunt what's to become o' me ? I couldn't hear nothen, 
and felt Uke being wropped np in my hammock ready 
for the last toss. Suddenly they loosed the sail, and 
away I rolled down into the bottom of th' bight o* 
canwas. I roared out with th' fright an' th' dazzle, for 
it was broad day, an' the sun ashining, and then, my 
presence o' mind coming to me, I screeched hout, * For 
God's sake, keep fast them buntlines ontil I gits hout o' 
this.' All hands had supposed me overboard, and the 



'LONGSHOBEMAN'8 TARNS. 145 

cbaps who 'ad loosed th' tawa'l hearin' my woice« but 
not being able to see me, took me to be Perkins's ghost, 
and ran down on deck in a terrible fank. If it had 
depended on them I might ha' lain in that there taws'l 
ontil th' end o' th' woyage. However, some o' the other 
chaps comes aloft, an' seein' how it was, they lowers 
a bowlin' to me, into which I got, and was haul'd 
hup." 

"Extraordinary ! '* said the young gentleman. "What 
awfully horrid dangers a man meets with at sea ! " 

" Why even that's nothing," continued Perkins, 
"compared to one mortal expirience I met with in a 
woyage from Galifornie to Ghiney, and from Ghiney to 
Chili by way o' New South Wales. 1 falls from aloft, 
and when picked up was in a dead swound. They give 
me two days, then stitched me hup in a hammock and 
brought me to th' gangway. For some hours I know'd 
what they was up to, but couldn't speak. But when 
I felt myself put on the gratin' and that I couldn't be 
mistook in supposin' th' skipper to be close by, with a 
prayer book in his hand, I says to myself ' Perkins,' I 
says, says I, * you must make a heffort, or it's good night,^ 
I says, says I. An' I did make a heffort. It felt like 
bustin' hup. The skipper was in th' middle o' th' 
Orfice when I made that there heffort, and I rolled off 
th' gratin', and fell with a mighty flump on the deck. I 
was afterwards told the chap as had held th' gratin' let 
go, and ran up th' riggin'. Others o' th' crew bolted 
forrards, and tarned in. The consternation was werry 
surprisin*. However, the capt'n, callin' for his knife, 
rips open the hammock, an' out I steps, none th' worse 
for bavin' been dead, and sufferin' from nothin' more 
than pusperation." 

" By George," exclaimed the young man, " how 



146 *L0NQ$H0BE3IAirS YABNS. 

awfully disgusting it would have been, you know, if you 
hadn't been able to move ! *' 

**Ay,'* answered Perkins, **it would. But, taking 
sea dangers all round, I reckon there's none worse than 
thirst." 

" Thirst must be fearful," said the young gentleman. 

" It is fearful," responded Perkins. " It's fearful, 
sir, when ye've been in an open boat, as I have, for 
three weeks, and havn't had so much as a drop o' dew 
to cool your burnin' lips. But I'll tell ye when it's 
fearfuUer still — when thirst is fearfullest of all, sir — and 
that is when a man's dry as I am now, parched, I may 
say, without the walue of half-a-pint in his pocket, and 
with several first-class publics hard by." 

No more was said. The young gentleman, moved off. 
Perkins followed him. I stood up to see which way they 
went, and perceived Perkins with the young gentleman 
at his heels making a direct course for the Three Thirsty 
Sailors. 

Perkins was not to be my only experience that same 
day. I was not a little amused and interested in the 
afternoon when, on asking an old boatman with whom 
I had been conve^rsing for some time to refresh himself 
at my expense, I stepped with him into a little alehouse 
close down by the sea, where I found myself in the 
presence ot seven or eight watermen, regaling themselves 
with beer and tobacco. As a rule, when a number of 
this kind of men get together, they talk in couples, and 
the confusion is lively ; hoarse and salt arguments being 
incessantly traversed by shouts and yells to Tom or Jim 
to confirm the accuracy of a remark, or to furnish a 
name or a date. The boatmen I found myself amongst, 
however, were conversing and listening with great 
propriety, one speaking at a time, whilst the others 



^LONGSHOREMAN'S TARNS, 147 

thonghtfally smoked or interjected such remarks as, 
** Why yes, that's true enough,*' or " There ain't no 
contradicting that, Tommy," or " Jest my views, as 
Simon here'll tell ye." It was my part to listen. I 
lighted a pipe and sat down, whilst my boatman, having 
taken a chair opposite me and raised his glass with a 
"Well, here's my respects to ye, sir," and swallowed 
half the contents, turned to another old boatman who 
was sitting near him, and exclaimed, " Joe, what was 
the crowner's findin' consarning that there dead body 
picked up under the cliff t'other day ? " 

" Why, I hear that it was agreed he'd come by his 
death through a swound. That's better than saying he 
was drunk. But these here accidents ain't calculated 
to do us men much good. Nothen going on round the 
coast now but what the papers calls cas'alties. The 
public '11 end in taking fright, and bortin' will go out o' 
date altogether." 

"It's pretty nigh gone altogether as it is," said a 
young boatman. 

" Whatever accidents happens," exclaimed an old 
man who was addressed by the others as Tom, "is 
chiefly caused by the public theirs^lves. There's a 
hignorance and a selfishness amongst holiday people, 
and others as ought to know better, as makes me 
astonished that hundreds and hundreds ain't drownded 
every summer. There was a man here t'other day from 
a port down West. He was tellin' me that a steamer 
was chartered by some speculative covey to carry people 
at so much a head each up a river to view the scenery. 
Well, this here man thought as he'd go and have a bob's 
worth of sight-seeing, so he steps aboard the steamer, 
where he finds about a hundred and fifty persons already 
assembled. Still they was a-comin.' The bell kept all 



148 'LONGSEOREMAirS YABNS. 

on a-ringin', and the people a-runnin', till pretty nigh 
three hundred men, women, and children was aboard 
that steamer, and then time being long past up, and 
no more passengers appearing the vessel steamed oflF. 
Well, the man as told me this said that from the paddle- 
box the decks looked full, and I dare say they did. He 
thought they was now going straight on up the river ; 
'stead o' which, on rounding a comer, what should come 
into view but a pier chock-full o' people, and a crowd 
behind waiting for room on the pier to shove forward. 
The steamer drove alongside, and the man told me he 
never see such a sight as followed. There was drunken 
soldiers and sailors, men, women with babies in their 
arms, little children, all thrustin', shovin*, shoutin', 
cryin', and screechin* as they jumped aboard. The 
people in the steamer wanting to see what was happenin* 
all ran to one side, of course, and listed her down till 
she was sponson under. Then there was wot they calls 
a panic. Some one sung out that the vessel was going 
down. There was an old barge moored 'longside the 
pier, and when the people took fright there was a jump 
for it. My man told me he got in, makin' sure the 
steamer was foundering. He says after that all he 
recollects plainly of was the people on the pier being 
shoved by the people astarn of 'em towards the steamer, 
and the people on the steamer trying to get on to the 
pier, and numbers of them jumping into the barge ; 
Ukewise he recollected the screams of the people, seeing 
women fainting, chaps leaning over to pull children up 
out 0* the water, drunken soldiers and sailors fighting — 
the people in charge of the steamer looking on helpless, 
as if they was drunk too, and imbecile — until at last, he 
says, the people crowded so fast into the barge that they 
shoved several persons overboard, he amongst them. 



*L0NG8H0BEMAN*8 TARNS. 149 

He lay hold of a line that moored the barge to a pile or 
upright on the river's bank, and hauled hisself ashore, 
and he says to me that he'd never go sight-seeing again 
in a steamer, not if he \ras to be paid £100 down for 
every excursion. If/* said the boatman, "the public 
chooses to put itself into sich sittivations as this, callin' 
of *em pleasure-makin', who's to save them from being 
massacred ? If, with eyes in their heads and with look- 
ing they can't see a tremendious danger straight in front 
of them, why, then, they must be drownded." 

" Yes," said another man, *' but drownin's bad for 
bortin'. It don't want many accidents to make a bad 
season." 

" I dun'no," exclaimed a boatman, "whether bye-laws 
restrainin' people from going out in borts without a man 
wouldn't be good for us watermen, as diminishing danger, 
and so rendering borting more comfortable and agreeable. 
I've known visitors, who might otherwise ha' been good 
customers, to take fright at merely watchin' of a couple 
of cockneys out in a sailin* bort. Only the other day I 
made up my mind that two young chaps 'long with two 
young gals was bound to go. They kep' the sheet fast, 
and three of 'em sat to loo'ard trailing of their hands 
in the water, with the chap a'steering to windward of the 
helm, sometimes luffing till she was all shaking, and 
sometimes letting her go through it ramping full. Had 
the wind freshened instead of failed the bort must ha' 
capsized as sartin as that there pewter pot would fall to 
the ground if I shoved it off this 'ere table. Then what 
would ha' happened ? " 

" Why," said another man, " bortin' would have been 
knocked on the head for the rest of the summer." 

" Ay," said a gruff fellow ; "and take the skylarking 
that goes on in boats. I've seen a boat loaded down to 



150 'LONGSIIOREMAN'8 YARNS. 

her gun'nel with a party of men and women, and ideols 
a-standing up on the thwarts with their legs wide apart 
swaying of the boat to make her roll, and all the females 
screeching with laughter, as if, by the Lord, they was 
rehearsing for another kind of screeching. And then 
take one of them chaps who pretends he knows how to 
row, pulhn' away with the tide, , and reckonin' that 
because he sees things passing pretty quick he's made a 
mistake in not taking to rowing as a purfession. If he's 
never heard of again 'tain't his fault." 

'^ 'Stonishing what a lot of fools there are in this 
world ! " exclaimed my old boatman. " I once see a 
young wench shoving a perambulator along the quay 
side, where it slopes. She turns the perambulator 
towards the water in order to see down upon the deck of 
a vessel that was hauling in alongside. Wanting to 
blow her nose, perhaps, she lets go the handle to feel for 
her handkercher, when away goes the perambulator with 
the babby in it slop into the water. Since then I've took 
notice of the number of women as turns their perambu- 
lators upon that slope towards the water if they want to 
look at anything over the quay side. Ten out of every 
fifteen does it, and if ten out of every fifteen babbies ain't 
drownded in that place it's because the women forget to 
let go the handles to feel for their hankerchers." 

" Stoopidity ! " said an old fellow, in a growling voice, 
" why, there's no hend to it. Take the case of that gent's 
son that was a-fishing off the pier. He was sitting with 
his legs over the side,'* said he, for the information of 
those who had not heard the story. " There was other 
boys and one or two men fishing off that pier likewise. 
This here gent's son gets a bite, and sings out that he's 
caught a fish. Hearin' this, t'others come running up 
to see, crowd about him whilst he's hauling up a dab 



^LONQSHOBICMAN 8 YABN& 151 

nbont as long as yer little finger, and in their excitement 
elber him clean overboard. Well, he wasn't drownded, 
bnt he came very near to it. Had he been drownded," 
said the old fellow, contemptuously, " there*d been a 
scare. Fishing 'ud ha' received a knock on the head, 
and one more of the deversions as people comes to the 
seaside to enjoy would have suffered for the rest of the 
season, and been the cause of folks leaving, perhaps, 
afore their time." 

" Ay," exclaimed one of the men, " and look what 
happens on account of the fools who walk along the 
beach when the tide's a rising. D'ye remember that 
chap, Harry, as you and me found lying on the rocks ? 
Harry and me," he continued, "was a-coming along, 
making haste, for the tide was rising fast, when we see 
a man lying among the rocks, and the water coming up 
close to him. He moved, and signed to us to come to 
him. We found he'd sprained his ankle and broke his 
right arm by tumbling down. He'd been groping about 
among the pools for whatever he might come across. 
He was a middle-aged man, pretty tidily dressed. It was 
lucky we sighted him. He wur as helpless as the rock 
he lay on, and the evening was di^awing up as well as the. 
tide. He told us he'd been singing out till he lost his 
voice, and that seemed true enough, for he could scarcely 
speak. If that chap had ended in becoming a corpse — 
as he wur bound to it if we hadn't come across him — 
there'd ha' been a fresh start for the wisitors. ' Dear 
me ! ' they would have said, * what a place that is for 
drowning, to be sure! 'Taint safe even to think of. 
Better try Ramsgate or Dover next time.' " 

"Dunno about Ramsgate," exclaimed one of the 
men ; ** there's a good many accidents happens that 
way, I believe. There's a talk, I'm told, of putting up 



152 'LONGSEOBEMAtrS YABNS. 

a sort of steps or stages there for people to take refuge 
upon when they're caught by the tide. The idea ain't 
bad; but what sort of steps '11 they be, I wonder? 
Timber ? They'll have to be pretty solid, I reckon, if 
they arn't to be washed away. Better to cut steps in the 
clift, I should say, with an iron handrail solidly let in, 
and a big holler, with a seat or two, high enough out of 
any water as might dash up." 

" I know them clifts," said my old boatman ; " there's 
not much confidence to be put in steps cut out of chalk. 
Chalk crumbles, matey. Why look at the litter that 
lies all along them sands. It takes more than a lump 
of chalk to skeer me, but I've walked a many times 'twixt 
Bamsgate and Broadstairs, and never felt comfortable 
unless I'd a good hundred foot 'tween me and the clifts. 
Why, I was once passing along when I see a block of 
chalk pretty nigh the size of old Tom's cottage come 
thundering down. 'Twere like an airthquake, and made 
ye think of the country going to pieces. Well, not fifty 
yards furder on I see a couple o' spooneys sittin' with 
their arms round each other's waist, a making love, at 
the bottom of the clifts, with just such another rock as 
had tumbled down standing out right over them. They 
must ha' heard the shindy the chalk made when it fell, 
but d'ye think they took any notice? Not a hatom. 
And when I sings out and points to the lump over their 
heads and to the heaps of stuff all about 'em, the young 
chap he cries out, * Git along, you old fool, and mind 
your own business.' " 

*' Ay," exclaimed a strapping young boatman, " that's 
their way. A gent once came running up to me out of 
breath. * Hi ! ' he says, ' there's two young fellars,' he 
says, says he, * as are rowing theirselves pretty nigh 
clean out o' sight with the tide. I don't know 'em,' he 



^LONGSHOnEMAirS TASN8. 153 

Bays, ' but I've been a watching of them, and Fm sartain,* 
he says, says he, ' that if help ain't sent to 'em there'll 
be an accident.* Well, I nat'rally supposed that they'd 
be glad of some one to help 'em to get back, and I 
wanted a shilling bad, for I hadn't aimed a farden that 
week. Well, I jumps into my boat, and pulls away arter 
them, and by-'em-by, picks them up, they having got 
their boat's head round. They cheeked me at first; 
said if it came to a matter o' rowing they dared say that 
they'd had more jobs of that kind than I should have 
the ordacity to dream of, and they talked to me in that 
fashion. However, I put up with their imperence, being 
wishful to airn a shilling, and arter a bit they let me get 
into their boat, and, with my own in tow, we started, 
they relieving each other, and me tugging away all the 
time. Well, we got home. The two chaps paid the man 
as the wherry belonged to, and was walking oflf when I 
followed 'em and asked them to remember of me, seeing as 
it had been a pretty stiff job. * Why,* says they, ' we never 
asked you to come. You wolunteered. What d'ye take 
us to be ? The exercise *11 do ye good. You look as if some 
of that there fat wanted pusspiring out of ye,' and with 
that they walks off laughing at the top of their woices." 
** Your speaking," said a little fellow who had been 
looking anxiously for an opportunity to say a word, " of 
(he covey ye found with his arm broke and his foot 
sprained, reminds me of an hincident that I confess 
rather gave me a turn at the time. There was some 
children with their clothes tucked up and their legs bare, 
paddling about in the water. My boat lay off, and I 
was trying to get custom. Presently the fattest old 
woman as ever I see in all my life, passed me with her 
petticuts held up and her feet exposed. I niver see sich 
a figger. She'd got a red welvet bat on, and I reckon 



154 'LONGSHOBLMAirS TAJiNS. 

that if instead of going into the sea, she'd ha' been 
coming out of it, there'd ha' been a regular skeedaddle. 
Well, this here fat woman goes into the water just 
like a ball being blowed along without rewolving. She 
steps in till the water comes three or four inches 
above her ankles, when all of a sudden she falls flat 
down upon her face, and there she lay, with nothen 
showing but the round of her back. Guessing some- 
ihin^ wrong, I dashed in arter her, and got her head 
up out of it, but it took four men to carry her on to 
the sands. A doctor come and said it was happle- 
plexy, or something bearing that name. It's some time 
ago now," said the man, " but I tell ye, mates, if 1 see 
that there woman's face when I turns in of a night it's a 
sign there ain't to be much sleep for me, and I generally 
has to see the doctor." 

" Harry," shouted a fellow across one of the tables 
to a tall, melancholy-faced boatman, "d'ye remember 
the case of the Skylark as that ingeneer chap off the tug 
was telling us about ? " 

"Eemember ?" said the tall man, " why, yes, of course 
I remember. I dunno," he continued, addressing the 
others generally, and taking the story out of his mate's 
mouth, " as ever I heerd of a closer shave. You know 
the Something Bank," said he, referring to a shoal the 
name of which I cannot recall. *'Well, a party of 
four men and three women hired a boat for an hour's 
sail. They wouldn't take a man with them, as they 
said they knowed all about handling a sailing-boat, 
and was too old to stand in need of teaching. The bank 
was dry, but the tide was rising ; the water was middling 
smooth, and a nice breeze a-blowing. They said it 
would be a good lark to sail for that there bank, get 
ashore, and play kiss-in-the-ring. It 'u'd be something 



I 



'LONGSHOBEMAirS TARNS. 155 

to talk about, they thought, playing kiss-in-the-ring on 
a place where there'd been plenty of shipwrecks. So," 
said the long boatman, rendering bis story impressive by 
his hoarse utterance and deliberate manner, '* they heads 
for this bank and they fetches it. Well, they downed 
lug, letting the boat lie with her stem on the sand, and 
they all got out, supposing in their ignorance that the 
boat 'ud lie all right. They was springing and larking 
about, kissing and squealing and the likes of that, when 
presently their boat goes adrift, and as they hadn't lut 
the yard of the sail come well down, there was just a 
little bit o' canvas showing, enough to let the wind 
help the tide with her nicely. The hexcursionists on 
seeing this felt, I dare say, as if it was time to give up 
kissing, and more reasonable to go to prayers. What 
their feelings was, mates, you may imagine. For by 
this time they could see that the bank was growing 
smaller, which properly led 'em to suppose that the tide 
was making fast. Most luckily for them, there was a tug 
coming along, meaning to give this here bank a wide 
berth ; but keeping a bright look-out, as they generally 
does aboard them wessels, they sighted the boat all 
adrift, and on their shifting their helium for her they 
drawed close enough to the bank to see figgers upon it. 
So they took the boat in tow, and went away for the 
bank. But by this time the water was over the parties' 
feet, and it didn't need to rise much higher, with the tide 
that was a-running, to wash them all away. There was 
a scramble to get them ; and a job it was, the ingeneer he 
told us. But they was got off at last, pretty near in a 
dying condition, and brought ashore." 

This seemed to end the boatmen's experiences, or at 
least their conversation upon this particular topic. I 
rose and quitted the room. 



THE BRITISH SAILOR. 

On February 9, 1847, Mr. John Lewis Eicardo brought 
forward the following motion in the House of Com- 
mons : — ** That a Select Committee be appointed to in- 
quire into the operation and policy of the Navigation 
Laws." Mr. Thomas Milner Gibson, then Vice-President 
of the Board of Trade, gave the sanction of the Govern- 
ment to the motion, and recommended that the committee 
should be appointed. The proposal was strongly ob- 
jected to by the Hon. H. T. Liddell (afterwards Earl of 
Bavensworth), who, in the course of his speech, declared 
that the object of the navigation laws was twofold — 
first, to create and maintain the great commercial 
marine of this country for the purposes of national 
defence, by which he directly indicated supplies of men ; 
and, secondly, to prevent any one other nation from 
engrossing too large a portion of the navigation of the 
world. Mr. Eicardo's motion was carried by 155 to 61. 
This was the beginning of a long and bitter struggle. 

The whole body of merchants and shipowners, with 
but few exceptions, were in opposition to the repeal 
party. One of their strong arguments was that the 
threatened legislation would practically annihilate the 
British seaman by the expurgation of the Apprentice- 
ship Clause, and by forcing the owner, for reasons of 
economy, to ship as few sailors as the vessel could 



TEE BRITISH SAILOR. 167 

possibly go to sea with, and to choose for such hands 
the cheapest labour procurable. This opinion was 
supported by many persons of weight and authority. 
Admiral Martin, for instance, declared that the merchant 
service was everything to the navy, and that the navy 
could not exist without it. He quoted June 1, 1794, 
and declared that Howe could not have gained his 
victory but for the merchant seamen of this country. 
He pointed out that the resoiurces of the mercantile 
marine enabled Admiral Gardner to swiftly collect forty 
thousand seamen and proceed with seven sail of the 
line and other vessels to the West Indies. He also 
instanced the case of Lord Hood, and that admiral's 
occupation of Toulon and seizure of Corsica. It is 
notorious, indeed, that the opponents of the repeal lay 
most stress upon the injury that abrogation would in- 
flict upon the British forecastle. London sent a petition 
of 74,000 signatures, Liverpool another of 24,700. In 
these documents the invitation to foreign nations to 
participate in whatever advantages we possess seems to 
be considered as an evil light in comparison with the 
consequences the measure would produce in the supply 
of seamen to the Boyal Navy. A letter written by Sir 
John Gladstone, Bart., to his son, the. Bight Hon. W. 
Ewart Gladstone, M.P. "for the University of Oxford," 
is still extant ; and the writer, dictating from a bed of 
sickness, implores his '' dear son William " to consider 
" where will be your boasted nursery that has hitherto 
manned your navy and protected your shores,'* and 
"what is to become of your justly boasted wooden 
walls," if the navigation laws are repealed and a gap 
made in our legislative barricadoes big enough to let 
in the foreigner ? Mr. H. Drummond went further yet : 
"There was a time when they had a national faith; 
11 



158 THE BRITISH SAILOR. 

there was a time when they venerated, worshipped even, 
the statesman who guided safely the destinies of the 
country; when they reverenced the magistrates who 
presided over the administration of their laws ; when 
they gloried in the soldiers and the sailors who main- 
tained the greatness of their nation throughout the 
world ; when the noblest credo that they had was * Bule, 
Britannia ! ' and when the finest anthem in their ritual 
was * God save the Queen ! ' " By which he meant, 
repeal the navigation laws and the country is doomed. 
But the most ardent eloquence and signatures in pro- 
digious array availed nothing. At the third reading of 
the famous bill, in April, 1849, the repealers had a 
majority of 61. Two months later it passed the House 
of Lords, and on June 26 the royal assent was given. 

The full story of this bill offers some instructive 
reading at the present time. Nearly forty years have 
elapsed since the navigation laws fell into dust. Yet 
in one particular the controversy which Mr. Bicardo's 
motion set raging through the length and breadth of 
the land may be said to be as hot now as it was then. 
The dreadful misgivings of the shipowners have not, 
indeed, been verified. It is not necessary to go the 
round of the docks and outports to know that free trade 
has not extinguished the British mercantile marine. 
But it certainly does appear as if the prophesyings re- 
garding the decadence of the English sailor were not 
without a certain accuracy. It is not that Jack has 
been killed by the repeal of those clauses which were 
designed to foster and multiply him under the old Acts ; 
he is apparently no longer wanted. Forty years ago 
the British shipowner was saying, " If you pass your 
bill, you will oblige us to ship small crews, and since 
foreign labour is cheaper than native, we will gather 



TJ^jB; BRITISH SAILOB. 159 

into our forecastles the most inexpensive nationalities 
we can lay our hands on — Norwegians, Danes, Germans, 
Greeks ; men to be fed at the minimum cost, to whom 
old bread and young weevils will be as relishable as 
fresh tack and sweet butter to the English seaman.*' It 
would be mere affectation and sheer disingenuousness 
to pretend that much of what was then predicted has 
not since been fulfilled. For months and months the 
cry of the British mariner has been waxing louder and 
deeper. Scores of meetings have been held, resolutions 
passed, memorials drawn up, deputations told off, pro- 
mises made and broken. Numerous Jacks have been 
locked up for beating the " Dutchman " away from the 
English shipping offices with horny ffsts. It came at 
last to a Boyal Commission on Merchant Shipping — as 
clear an echo of the prophetic shout of 1817 as ever 
rung out of antecedent through the pages of history. 
Arguments as to whether the English or the foreign 
sailor was the better man have risen to so great a 
height, have been so acidulated with temper, that no 
person but slenderly interested in the subject could 
imagine to what lengths the controversialists have gone. 
And how do we stand now ? The smoke of the battle 
having cleared off a bit, in what posture do we find our 
nautical countrymen? Are they getting ships, or are 
their lives still a long and hopeless *' loafing job " about 
the yards ? Is the foreigner as much in favour as ever ? 
Have the patriotic instincts of the owner been reached, 
and does he head the folios of his ledger with '^ Bule, 
Britannia " and " Hearts of Oak ? " 

But what concerns me here is to compare the echo 
with the cry of which it is the reverberation. What 
were they saying of Englishmen and foreigners in 
1847-49, and what are they saying now? I have 



IGO THE BRITISH SAILOR. 

before me two summaries : First, the evidence given 
before the Commons* Committee forty years ago ; and, 
secondly, the evidence before the Eoyal Commission of 
Merchant Shipping, the first part of whose labours has 
been but recently concluded.* A few extracts from 
these summaries cannot fail to be of interest at the 
present moment to the great body of our English sea- 
farers. 

It is necessary to premise that the terms of the 
navigation laws required that British ships should 
carry a certain number of British seamen, according to 
the tonnage, if foreign seamen were included in the 
crew. Supposing a British ship to carry foreign sea- 
men as well as British seamen, she would then have to 
take one British seaman, for every twenty tons. As an 
instance of the fostering tendency of the old laws, a 
Lascar-manned vessel on her return to India was forced 
to carry out four British seamen for every hundred tons, 
presuming she took back her Lascar crew. The con- 
sequence was that a vessel of 500 tons, say, had to take 
out twenty British seamen as far as the Cape of Good 
Hope, because it seems that directly the ship got to the 
eastward of the Cape her captain was at liberty to work 
her solely by Lascars. The effect, then, of the navigation 
laws, or at least those portions of them which especially 
referred to seamen and apprentices, was to oblige owners 
to convert their forecastles into nurseries for the produc- 
tion and development of the British merchant sailor. 
When, therefore, it came to the shipowners having for 
their own protection, as they believed, to point to the 
disastrous results which they foreboded as an inevitable 
issue of repeal, they insisted with great vehemence and 
large importation of testimony upon the uncommon 

♦ 1887. 



THE BKITISn SAILOE. 161 

merit of the British sailor as he then was. For instance, 
Mr. George Frederick Young, a well-known shipowner 
and shipbuilder of London, declared to the committee 
that he was perfectly certain that British shipping to 
any considerable extent could never yield a full supply 
of whole crews of foreign sailors, and that it would never 
be practicable to bring down a single British seaman to 
the low level of many foreign nations. This anticipation 
finds remarkable confirmation in the attitude of the 
sailor forty years later. Mr. Thomas Boyes Simey, 
Lloyd's surveyor at Sunderland, supplied some interest- 
ing statistics with respect to the difference from the stand- 
point of economy between Englishmen and foreigners. 
.He mentioned a Prussian barque of 304 tons register, 
navigated with twelve men, and an EngUsh brig of 338 
tons, navigated with ten men and two boys. The captain 
of the Prussian barque received £3 10s. a month with 
perquisites, the chief mate £3 10^., second mate £1 10a., 
carpenter £2, cook £1 10^., and seven seamen at d£l 4a. 
each, making a total of £16 18s. a month, exclusive of 
the captain's wages. In the English brig, the captain 
received £10 10s. a month, mate £5, carpenter £4 10s., 
second mate £3, cook £3, five seamen at £2 15s. each, 
and two boys at 15s. each — amounting to £30 15s. as 
against £16 13s. These figures clearly showed the 
policy the shipowners would adopt if all restrictions 
upon the employment of foreign labour were removed. 
Mr. William John Hall, a merchant of London, stated 
that a British ship, well manned and properly worked, 
can compete with any ship on the face of the world in 
point of expense, because the seamen are a better class 
of men, and have more work in them than the seamen 
of any other country. Mr. Money Wigram declared that 
he had no difficulty in procuring trustworthy men as 



1G2 THE BRITISH SAILOB. 

captains, and having liberally praised the English 
mariner as a sailor, he added that it would be impossible 
to man ships with part Englishmen and part foreigners 
at different wages and different manners of feeding, 
because it would soon fall into the better class of feeding 
being given to all. Experience has proved the exact 
contrary ; that is to say, the admixture of Englishmen 
and foreigners has resulted in the Englishman having 
been practically dismissed from the forecastle for the 
economical reasons which have resulted in low wages 
and low-class feeding. 

Mr. J. P. Younghusband, of a firm of Liverpool ship- 
owners, said, "I do not believe that the masters of 
foreign vessels are better educated and more skilled 
navigators than the masters of British ships. The best 
ships and the best masters in the world are to be found 
in the British service." Mr. John Alexander Hankey 
warmly supported the merits and character of masters 
and men, spoke highly of the respectability of the 
former, and declared they had improved in education. 
Mr. Charles Enderby, of the well-known whaling firm, 
found the British seamen in the fisheries quite as good 
as the Americans, and deprecated the threat of dis- 
placing British crews by foreigners. Mr, Mark Whitwell 
said that he had sailed with men of all nations, but that, 
taking them for all in all, the British seaman surpassed 
the whole of them in every respect. " In a bad night," 
said Mr. William Richmond, " I should prefer English 
seamen." This was the tenor of most of the evidence, 
many of the witnesses being the first shipowners in 
the country — such as Money Wigram, Duncan Dunbar, 
Mark Whitwell, and the like. In addition to these names 
a number of naval officers — such as Admiral Martin, 
Captain Sir James Stirling, Bear-Admiral Sir Thomas 



THE BRITISH SAILOR, 1G3 

J. Cocbrane, and others, testified to the worth of the 
British merchant sailor in language worthy of the high- 
hearted candour of those days of fighting sailors. 

We are told to believe, however, that since those 
times the English mariner has so degenerated that owners 
can no longer endure to employ him. Ships are sailed 
on the temperance principle, and yet we are asked to 
believe that he drinks out and away harder than they 
did in an age when the hold was full of rum puncheons. 
We are assured that he cannot keep a look-out, that he 
skulks during occasions of peril, that the serving-mallet 
and the marUnespike are lost arts to him. And yet in 
the evidence given before the recent Eoyal Commission 
the general testimony is distinctly in his favour. Mr. 
David Brown merely echoes the old anti-repeal cry. 
There is deterioration, but why? Because, he says, 
there is no nursery for educating apprentices. Mr. 
William Andrew, a ship-captain, declared that could we 
have all British seamen in our ships, loss of life at sea 
would be very much reduced. You always find, he says, 
that the British seaman goes about his work with a delibe- 
rate coolness which is not to be found in any other nation 
under the sun. The secretary of the British and Foreign 
Sailors* Society affirms that there is no ground what- 
ever for the statement that there is deterioration in the 
quality of the British seaman. Mr. George Lidgett, of 
the firm of John Lidgett and Sons, said there is no 
difficulty in getting seamen, but that there is a difficulty 
in always getting a sufficient number of British sailors, 
and he liked British sailors best. Mr. J. H. Worthing- 
ton, chairman of the Shipowners* Associations at Liver- 
pool, said that, as to British seamen, the genuine article 
is becoming very scarce ; " when you get him he is as 
as good as ever." But he omitted to point out that the 



164 THE BRITISH SAILOR. 

reason why the English sailor has become scarce is 
because he is left unemployed, and that the fostering 
which should be given to him is devoted to the foreigner. 
Some encouragement, said Mr. James Henry Beasley — 
who represents the Liverpool Steamship Owners* Associ-* 
ation — should be given to shipowners to carry apprentices. 
'*If that is not done," he adds, " I do not see where our 
future supply of sailors is to come from." Space 
prohibits me from referring to other witnesses, but 
enough has been quoted to show that the approval of 
the British sailor won from shipowners and others 
during the agitation caused by a repeal that was deemed 
a menace to the whole fabric of our maritime interests 
he still continues to extort, after a lapse of forty years, 
and at a time when the policy of economy has dictated 
the most ungenerous statements as regards his principles 
and capacity as a man. It is impossible, then, I think, 
to refer to the literature of the abrogation of the year 
1849, and to consider the existing condition of the 
English mariner, without perceiving that if the decay 
which everybody laments of the British sailor is to be 
arrested, it can only be achieved by recurrence to the 
spirit of that especial portion of the old laws which 
provides that our seamen should be cherished and their 
interests promoted as part and parcel of the policy of 
a nation whose supremacy at sea must never be 
threatened or weakened. 



LIFEBOATS AND THEIR CREWS. 

Not very long ago there was printed a letter that 
probably very few landsmen read without pain and 
wonder. The writer, referring to a heavy gale of wind 
that had recently swept the British coasts, said that on 
the evening of the storm a large number of vessels 
dragged or parted from their anchors in the Yarmouth 
Boads, and were stranded within speaking distance of 
the town of Lowestoft, and that, though there are four 
lifeboats belonging to this district, as well as a couple 
of powerful tugs owned by the Great Eastern Bailway 
Company, no effort for a long while was made to save 
the unhappy drowning seamen who were burning lights 
and ** imploring help in the most piteous terms." At 
last, the writer says, it came to flesh and blood being 
able to stand the horrible scene no longer ; with great 
difficulty a few determined men managed to collect a 
crew, one of the lifeboats was launched, and seventeen 
men saved, ** but not before the sea had done its work 
in many instances, and valuable lives had met a fate 
which could easily have been averted had proper lifeboat 
help been afforded in time." 

It does not need much imagination to picture the 
scene, though to do full justice to it one should know 
those waters, and have stood, during a heavy gale of 
wind, on any point of the shore betwixt Lowestoft and 



166 LIFEBOATS AND TEEIB CREWS. 

East Gaistor, and looked forth upon the ocean roaring 
and hissing upon the numerous deadly sands which 
stretch from the south and west of Wakefield Gatway to 
Scroby Sand and the Winterton Overfalls. No more 
dreadful sight could be imagined than all those small 
coasting craft stranded, many of them within musket- 
shot of the piers and esplanades, their hulls barely 
visible in the evening shadow among the white smoke of 
the bursting surges, the gale bringing up the rending 
and tearing noise of splintering wood, mingled with the 
shrieks of drowning men, whilst close to them, within a 
stone's throw, as one might say, was the safety of the 
shore, the lights of rows of gay shops, and multitudes 
watching in security the fearful picture of riven ships 
and flashing thunderous surf. 

Why were the lifeboats not manned ? What had 
become on a sudden of those noble sailorly instincts 
which have made the lifeboat corps the grandest service 
in its way the world has ever seen — a theatre of such 
exalted heroism and touching unselfishness as nothing 
in the annals of the sea can surpass? It seemed an 
incredible thing that some dozens of vessels should be 
going to pieces oflf such a town as Lowestoft, filled as it 
is with plucky and seasoned fishermen and boatmen, 
within sight or reach of four lifeboats, and dense crowds 
of spectators, and never an effort made for hours to 
save the poor fellows who were filling the gale with 
their heart-rending cries for help. There must be some 
reason for such conduct — some cause having no reference 
to the danger of the errand, and therefore, perhaps, 
remediable. It might be difficult, I felt, to get at the 
truth by going to Lowestoft and making inquiries ; but 
some light, I thought, would be thrown on the subject 
by conversation with men experienced in lifeboat work — 



LIFEBOATS AND THEIR CREWS. 1C7 

men who bad rescued shipwrecked people under ail 
conditions of peril and sufifering and weather ; and so, 
a day or two after I had read the letter about the 
Lowestoft boats, I found myself in company with one of 
the best known of our English coxswains and four boat- 
men, all of whom had been out on errands of mercy so 
often that they assured me the jobs were past counting, 
and that they couldn't tell me how many times if I was 
to give them twenty pounds a man. 

I had seen enough of their work at different times 
and at various places to gauge to the very heart of it all 
the meaning of their hard, salt, sea-beaten faces. There 
is a no more thrilling memory than that of the black 
night roaring with the sweeping thunder of the gale, the 
rocket faintly glimmering an instant in the black hollow 
over the pallid ocean, the height and volume of whose 
liquid acclivities are made appreciable to the ear by the 
deep-toned sounds that come rolling out of the lashed 
surface, the tremulous flicker of a flare two leagues 
distant, denoting the spot of the shipwreck, the rush of 
brave hearts into the lifeboat, and her speedy evanish- 
ment in the howling gloom as she speeds away, a very 
messenger from heaven, on her lonely, glorious, devoted 
voyage. 

" Now, boys," said I, " I want you to talk out to me. 
Don't be nervous. No names will appear in print. Hear 
this first ; " and I read to them the letter that was 
published in the newspapers. A profound silence followed 
my delivery; the coxswain took a long pull at his 
tankard and looked at the others. " Why didn't the 
Lowestoft men go off to those vessels ? " I asked. '* Do 
you think they were afraid ? " 

*' No, I won't say that," replied the coxswain. " I 
know Lowestoft; I know the class of men they've got 



168 LIFEBOATS AND THEIR CBEW8. 

there. I won't say they was afraid — God forbid! eh, 
BiU ? " 

Bill shook his head. 

" What, then, was the reason ? " 

" I should say," replied the coxswain, thoughtfully, 
"that the men when consarned in some previous job 
hadn't been rewarded up to their expectations. 1*11 allow 
there was dissatisfaction." 

" Dissatisfaction'll account for a good deal," said 
another man, whom I will call Joe. 

" What is the pay ? " I asked. 

" Ten shillings a day for sarvice in daylight," replied 
the coxswain, ** and a pound for night-work." 

" Is that the regular pay ? " 

" The regular pay." 

" Would you get the same money for going out on 
a fine warm night as in a freezing gale of wind in 
January ? " 

" Just the same. The Institution has the power of 
increasing the reward by doubling it. But the sarvice 
must be a very meritorious one for to bring men two 
pound a piece for the night-work ; and if ye bar a medal 
or a piece of wellum, and the likes of that, now and 
again, it's seldom that more than two pound for the 
most meritorious job is given for nightwork, or a pound 
for day-work, by the Institution. Sometimes the public 
subscribes, but very seldom — very seldom." 

" And you think, then," said I, " that the Lowestoft 
men refused to go out because they considered the 
reward of a pound not sufficiently large to induce them 
to imperil their lives ? " 

" I don't say it was that," responded the coxswain ; 
" ye ask for a reason, and I give a likely one ; but I'm 
not going to say it's right. But put yourself in the 



LIFEBOATS AND THEIB CREWS. 169 

position of one of us men, sir. You're turned in at home 
all snug and comfortable. Suddenly you're awakened 
by a thundering rap on the door, and some one sings out 
that there is a ship ashore or in danger. You bundle on 
your breeches and do the rest of your dressing as you 
run along. It*s blowing a whole gale, the cold fit to cut 
your head ofif, a raging sea in front of you. You've got 
a wife and children at home, and they're dependent on 
you. Would it be fair to call you a coward if you should 
stand a bit and think that though to be sure you might 
aim two pounds, the chances are you'd only get one, 
that is, if you come back alive ; and that before you can 
airn that pound you've got to take your chance of being 
froze to death or being washed overboard and drowned ? 
A man's life's dear to him. It's all very .fine for gents to 
turn to and write to the newspapers ; but if the individual 
as wrote that letter found the sight too much for flesh 
and blood, why didn't he volunteer to make one to go off 
to the coasters ? *' 

'' No doubt there has been a great deal of nonsense 
written about the lifeboat cause," said I. '' The senti- 
ment should be kept up, but not at the expense of truth 
and common sense. If you save lives do you get extra 
pay ? " 

" No," responded one of the men who had not yet 
spoken; '' that's the worst-managed part of it, I consider. 
You may go out and bring in half a dozen men, but 
unless the honorary secretary chooses to call the service 
a meritorious one, you'll only get a ten shillings or a 
pound, according whether it is day or night, just the 
same as if you'd saved no lives." 

" So that in reality you receive no more for actually 
saving life than for going out with the desire to save it ?" 

" Not as a rule," was the reply. " As you've heard, 



170 LIFEBOATS AND THEIR CHEWS. 

the Institution sometimes doubles the ordinary pay, but 
only in cases where £500 a man wouldn't be thought too 
much by any one who knew what sufferings the life- 
boatmen had gone through." 

" Do you make anything by salvage ? " 

'* Now and again, sir. There's more to be aimed by 
saving goods than lives. Take a case : There were two 
vessels in distress, a brig and a schooner. The Deal 
men refused to launch their boat ; the weather was too 
much even for them, the finest boatmen in the world. 
They looked at the sea and shook their heads ; they had 
wives and children to feed, and a pound was not enough 
to induce them to face the water. A boat belonging to 
a neighbouring station was launched and succeeded in 
getting the men out of the schooner's rigging and bring- 
ing them ashore. They then went to the brig and 
brought her into port. For saving the crew the men got 
two pounds a man, for saving the brig seven pounds a 
man." 

** You think, then," said I, " that the lifeboat crews 
are not sufficiently well paid for the work they do ? " 

" I'm afraid," answered the coxswain, " if the truth's 
to be told, that's the feeling among a large number of 
the men who man the boats. Whenever there's any 
hanging back I'll allow it'll be found that the men don't 
see their way to risk drowning for the 'lowance the Insti- 
tution makes. No man 'ud like to own this ; the feeling 
is that lifeboat work's a duty that ought to have nothing 
to do with payments. But they can't help their human 
natur', sir ; they can't help coming to a stand sometimes 
and hesitating afore volunteering to make widows of 
their wives and orphans of their children, in trying to 
save people who may be drownded afore they're reached, 
or who are eight or ten miles off and can't be seen and 



LIFEBOATS AND THEIR 0REW8. 171 

sympathized with, if ye can understand one, sir. Like- 
wise they feel that they're the sarvice, and that without 
them there'd be no Institution, and no tidy annual 
hincomes for them as never go out in the boats." 

*' And if they was to go out in the boats," said Joe, 
^'ye'd not find 'em writing letters to the newspapers 
saying that the Lowestoft men ought to be punished for 
refusing to do their duty. Duty ! that's not the word. 
Why should it be one man's duty to save life more than 
another's? Why should e'er a one of the Lowestoft 
crowd as watched the coasters think it the duty of the 
boatmen more than his own duty to risk their life in 
that sea ? Yolunteering's the word ; and there's nothing 
more ridiculous and aggravating than to hear people 
caUing out for punishment on men who refused, once in 
their whole lives maybe, to do what the people who are 
singing out would ne'er dream of wenturing for a thou- 
sand pounds a man. Ye can't imagine what it is to sit 
a night in a lifeboat in a heavy sea, and blowing a gale 
of wind full of frost. Think of a dozen men in a boat 
forty feet long, ten foot of which is took oflf by her end- 
boxes, the sea rushing over them, wet through to the 
skin, unable to move, sitting in freezing water for eight 
or ten hours at a stretch. Don't talk of punishing a 
man for thinking of his home and shaking his head 
when he looks out into the blackness. We belong to the 
working classes ; we have to get a living ; we value our 
lives like other folks ; we're rarely backwards in trying 
to save men when the call's made. But don't let shore- 
going people write too much about our noble characters 
sind our glorious errands. We are boatmen ; we're to be 
tempted to do good like others who reckon themselves 
our betters ; and I say that if ever there's any hanging 
back, it's because the feeling is that not enough of the 



172 LIFEBOATS AND THEIR CREWa. 

money that's given by the public finds its way into the 
pockets of the men who do all the work/' 

This did not end our conversation ; for in answer to 
my question whether those whom the lifeboat crews 
saved ever paid or rewarded the men in any way for 
their splendid devotion and courage, they gave me several 
instances of extraordinary ingratitude — one amongst 
them being the owner of a yacht of sixty tons that drifted 
ashore ; the lifeboat went out, took off the yacht's people 
— nine persons in all, and next morning not a vestige 
was to be seen of the vessel. For this service the boat- 
men received from the man who was rich enough to keep 
a sixty-ton yacht a cheque for £10 ! — ^being somewhat 
less than IO5. a man, counting the crew of a tug among 
the participators. *' He knew what his life was worth," 
said the coxswain sarcastically, ''and paid accordingly." * 

But though our conversation did not then end, all 
had been said that I find it necessary to repeat. I could 
not doubt, from what these boatmen stated, that their 
dissatisfaction with the rewards given them for their 
perilous undertakings is more prevalent among the 
crews around our coast than is suspected, possibly by 
even the Lifeboat Institution itself. The money sub- 
scribed by the public is meant for the men who man the 
boats, who brave the bitter gales, and who have been 
instrumental in saving seven-eighths of the hundreds of 
human beings who, according to the Institution's reports, 
are rescued every year. If I send £5 to this charity, I 
am quite content that £2 of it should go to the mainte- 
nance of the boats, but I am not satisfied if I hear that 
£1 only has gone to the poor fellows who have been 

* Shortly after this was published, the gentleman referred to presented 
the Lifeboat Institution with £80^. But I do not know that his rescuers 
got more than the sum above stated. 



LIFEBOATS AND THEIR CREWS. 173 

risking their lives all night, and the rest to officials who^ 
if you cannot expect them to be philanthropic for nothing, 
might at least be satisfied with an income equal to ten 
times the pay of a coxswain. I have written about the 
lifeboats before. I know the work, the hardships, the 
deadly perils of the service, and I say it will not do for 
us landsmen, toasting ourselves before large fires, with a 
good roof over our heads, to s\t in judgment upon men 
who hesitate to launch themselves into the white and 
furious sea for the sum of ten shillings or a pound. 
Their pay ought to be increased; but I should not 
advocate large rewards if I did not know that they could 
be made. 



12 



WEEVinS LECTURE. 

A FEW days ago I received the following letter from my 
old friend Captain Weevil: — "I have been asked by 
Captain Martin Gale, who keeps a nautical academy for 
young gents, to give them a lecture on practical seaman- 
ship. Perhaps you would like to hear me. If so be 
you should come, please to recollect that a ship's 
forecastle isn't a Oxford University." He gave me 
the address, and signed his letter, '^ Yours, without 
language." 

I had met Captain Gale, but did not know that he 
taught navigation to youths. There might be something 
to amuse and to interest me in old Weevil's lecture, I 
thought, so I made up my mind to attend it. Gale's 
house was not a very spacious one; he had located 
himself in Bayswater, where, perhaps, he stood a better 
chance of finding pupils in young gentlemen intended 
for the merchant service than had he lived in the East- 
end. On the other hand. Weevil lives at Poplar, so, 
as will be seen, he had a long distance to travel to oblige 
his friend. He arrived in a suit of shiny black cloth, 
and stiff high shirt-collar, in which his jolly round face 
and bald head rested like an egg in a cup. There were 
eleven pupils present, averaging in years from thirteen 
to eighteen. Old Martin Gale, a small, spare man, with 
a head lightly covered with straw-coloured hair which 



WEEVWS LECTURE, 175 

time bad left unchanged, and a month with a singular 
twist in it that brought it, as be used to say, well up 
into bis port cheek, bad arranged for the lecture by 
rigging up a desk with a small union-jack over it. 
Weevil stood at this desk, Gale sat alongside of him, 
and the audience, that numbered three or four others 
besides the pupils and myself, sat in chairs facing the 
two skippers. 

When all was ready, old Gale got up and made out 
a sort of preface full of coughs and awkward flourishings 
of the band. It was difficult to gather what be wanted 
to say, but happily his introductory observations were 
of no consequence. He sat down, and Captain Weevil 
stood up. The old fellow, with a smiling face, took stock 
of us with a long overhauling look. He did not exhibit 
that nervousness which I might have expected to find 
in a man so sensible as be was of bis deficiency in 
language. Drawing out an immense red pocket hand- 
kerchief with white spots, be polished his head, wiped 
bis mouth, and began as follows : — 

"My lads — You're all a-going to sea, I bear, and 
very glad I am to know it, for you look a tidy lot of 
youths, and never was there such a time as now when 
the marcbant sarvice wanted good men. I suppose 
none of you exactly know what you're going to, and it's 
best you shouldn't. The sea's a manly life, and several 
joys attend it, such as the pleasure of getting home, the 
runs ashore, and the sights seen in foreign ports, and 
the likes of such things as that. But it's a rough life 
too ; there's a deal of wet and sleeplessness in it, there's 
money to be aimed, but little to be saved, and when at 
sea there's such a call upon the attention of a right- 
minded man as no other profession can equal iu 
severity." 



176 WEEVIVS LECTURE. 

** Hear ! hear ! " said old Gale. 

'*Only coneider, young gents, what the feelings of 
a captain who's got principles and a correct understand- 
ing, what the feelings of such a man must be when he 
walks the quarter-deck of his ship, and reflects upon his 
power, and how the lives of all the people in the vessel, 
together with the vessel herself and all she may contain 
— a hundred thousand pounds' worth of goods, perhaps 
— are dependent upon him. My precious eyes ! there's 
responsibility for you. I was once master of a small 
ship, in which I took out two hundred convicts and a 
number of soldiers, and I very well remember one night, 
there being a calm on, and the vessel lying as still as 
a sleeping baby in the arms of its mother, stopping dead 
in my pacing the short poop, and thinking of the crowds 
of people that lay asleep under my feet ; and, my lads, 
I was so much agitated by the reflection, so much 
bewildered all on a sudden as it might be by this thought 
of what was on my shoulders, and what was expected 
of me, that I tell you as a man who has seen some 
tough weather and is not easily moved, it would have 
done me good if I could have cried," 

Here a boy laughed. Old Gale fixed a steady gaze 
upon him under knitted brows. Weevil, giving his head 
another polish with the handkerchief that was nearly 
as big as a small ensign, proceeded — 

'* Yes, young gents, I could have cried, and if I had 
I shouldn't have been ashamed of owning to it ; for you 
may depend upon it that there's nary man as can suffer 
in his manhood by the feelings of his heart making 
themselves when very strong expressed in his eyes." 

He blew his nose with the report as of a maintopsail 
bursting in a gale of wind, buried his handkerchief 
vehemently in his pocket, and continued — 



WEEVWa LEC'lURR 177 

" Ton'll understand, young gentlemen, that this here 
lecture of mine concerns sailing ships only, for you all 
of ye will have to sarve in square riggers before ye come 
to steam, and there's nothing aboard a steamer outside 
the engine-room ye can learn that you oughtn't to have 
brought aboard with you as a piece of knowledge from 
the sailing ship. I reckon it's the intention of every 
young gent as is looking at me to become in due course 
a mate and then a master. Your respected parents will 
no doubt apprentice you first. What benefits you're 
a-going to get for the money it'll cost your pas to send 
ye to sea I'm sure I don't know. For my part, I'd rather 
give ye a hand through the hawse-pipe. Better, I say, 
to begin in the fok'stle outright than in a deck house 
amidships. It must come to your knowing all about a 
ship from the flying-jibboom end to the tafifrail, and why 
not begin in the place where you get the soundest 
marine eddication? However, this is no business of 
mine, and I didn't mean that this lecture should inter- 
volve it." 

" Involve it," said Gale, mildly. 

" What did I say ? " said Weevil, turning to him. 

" You said intervolve it ! " exclaimed one of the boys. 

" Well, then, involve it," said old Weevil, blandly ; 
"but intervolve it sounds to me the correctest. Your 
captain here, my old friend Gale, is a man whose 
abilities as a sailor I know well and thoroughly respect, 
and I don't think, therefore, he'll quarrel with me for 
saying that in my opinion there's too much fuss made 
about navigation in these times. I'm not going to stand 
here and say that a man oughtn't to be able to find his 
way about with a sextant, though the best sailors the 
world has ever seen carried their ships safely all over 
the globe without caring whether the sun shone or not, 



178 WEEVW8 LECTURE. 

and in perfect ignorance of chreenometers. But what 
I will stand here and say is that the sort of knowledge 
that is nowadays expected in mates and masters don't 
touch the reasons why ninety out of every hundred 
ships are lost or damaged. Don't go and pretend that 
Weevil stood up here and told ye that navigation's of 
no use. That wouldn't be true. But what ye may say 
is the responsibilities of mates and masters are so great, 
he considers there's a deal too much weight laid upon 
the scientific part of seamanship* and much too much 
too little laid upon practical knowledge. Don't you go 
and suppose that because you're smart hands at working 
out sights, you're fit for having any kind of charge in 
a ship. No, young gents! you may have 'Norie's 
Epitome ' and the ' Nautical Almanac ' at your fingers' 
ends; you may know all about the sun, moon, and 
stars, and what to do with them, but without the 
practical knowledge you can only get by going to sea, 
by watching, by thinking, by arguing, by suffering, 
you'll no more be fit to take command of a vessel than 
the greenest hand that ever signed articles for a shilling 
a month." 

He paused with a sidelong glance at old Gale, who 
sat with a wooden face, waiting, perhaps, for further 
opinions before he ventured to comment. 

'*It*s the rarest thing in the world," continued 
Weevil, '* to hear of a loss through want of a knowledge 
of navigation, which shows that there can be no lack 
of that sort of learning knocking about at sea. Disasters 
happen from the want of simple precautions ; the lead 
isn't used; there's been too much hurry in thick 
weather ; currents haven't been allowed for ; a bad look- 
out has been kept. Pay close attention, young gents, 
to all that Captain Martin Gale tells ye, and master the 



WEEVWS LECTURE. 179 

navigation he's teaching you as fally as you can. But 
bear in mind also what old Weevil tells you ; the safety 
of ships depends upon so many points, which can only 
be understood by carefully doing your duty as sailors, 
and by getting all the ideas you can by watching and 
studying, that it's nothing short of a crime and a deceit 
to young men to put navigation at the top of the list 
of a man's requirements to act as mate or master." 

Gale filigbtly shook his head, a gesture old Weevil 
did not seem to observe. 

"Science, young gents, on a fine day or a clear 
night, will tell ye where ye are, and that's always worth 
knowing. But where does practice come in ? It comes 
in in collision, or, I should say, in the avoidance of it ; 
in stranding, in anchoring, in the shifting of cargoes, 
in the choking of pumps, in leakage ; it comes in on lee 
shores; ye can't do without it in foggy weather; you 
must be burnt if it ain't there in the case of fire ; it's 
wanted when there's ice, when a ship's dismasted, when 
sails are lost by splitting or being blown away, in 
capsizing, in squalls, when ye lose your rudder, in 
lowering boats, when you're deeply laden, when you are 
lying-to, when if you are light your ballast shifts, and 
when you're in soundings. There, my lads," exclaimed 
the old fellow, who had been gradually raising his voice 
till it grew penetrating with its triumphant treble, 
"that's where practice steps in, and in every case I've 
mentioned navigation wouldn't be of more sarvice to you 
than the tail of an eel to a drowning man. D'ye allow 
that. Gale ? " 

"Yes, yes," answered Gale, "that's right enough. 
Weevil ; only, you see, as mate or master a man must 
know navigation." 

" Why, yes, of course," cried Weevil, " and so he 



180 WEEVIV8 LECTURE. 

ought; but what I say is don't let it boss all marine 
knowledge, don't let it stand atop of the catalogue as if 
it was first and essential, and all what comes under it, 
useful only, and to be picked up as ye like and as ye go. 
An old North Shields captain, who had been to sea as 
master and man for fifty years, and upon whose nautical 
opinion I'd pin my faith if I should be drownded for it 
if he proved wrong, this man said to me, ' Any seaman 
of practical experience, haying sufficient skill and good 
judgment in calculating the position of a ship by the 
use of a chart and the latitude, could navigate a vessel 
with almost as much safety on a voyage round the world 
as those who have a thorough knowledge of navigation 
in all its branches, provided he used proper care when 
in the latitude of danger. I do not mean to say,' said 
he, Uhat a sufficient knowledge of navigation is not 
necessary for those in charge of vessels. I only intend 
to show that the safety of ships does not depend upon 
that point so much as is generally believed ; ' and those 
are exactly my sentiments," said old Weevil. 

Here the old gentleman broke off by saying something 
in a whisper to Captain Gale, the meaning of which was 
presently interpreted by the arrival of a glass of brandy- 
and-water, at which the old fellow took a pull with a 
thoughtful countenance, though his preoccupation could 
not veil the expression of relish that entered his features 
with the first drink. 

"And now, my hearties," said he presently, "for a 
few further observations touching the manly calling it's 
my pleasure to lecture you about. First of all, my 
advice to you is when you go to sea don't be too much 
of a sailor. Don't think it's nautical to use bad language. 
Learn to keep your temper. Bear a hand when you're 
called upon to do a job, and being gentlemen, and the 



WEEVWS LECTURE. 181 

8onB of gentlemen and ladies, strive never to lose the 
privilege of being what you are, by acting as if you were 
something else. Make no mistake, sailors like to have 
gentlemen over them. There's a something about refine- 
ment and good breeding that makes those who serve 
under such qualities in a man proud of him if he'll only 
allow them to be so. As for me, I'm no example to talk 
to ye in this manner, I dare say yell think. My father 
was a ship's carpenter, and I begun life afore the mast, 
and I was seventeen years old afore I could read, and 
nigh upon nineteen afore I could write my own name." 

Etere one of the boys laughed, but his merriment was 
promptly extinguished by a blow in the ribs from the 
elbow of the lad who sat next to him. 

'* But, such as my beginning was," said the old man, 
looking gently at the youth whose guffaw had made him 
falter for a moment, " yet when I found myself in a 
position that gave me power over others, it was always 
my struggle to behave towards them as if I was in their 
place and they over me. A gentleman in the meaning 
of that word, so far as eddication goes and polished 
manners, I wasn't. But that didn't prevent me from 
trying to act as if I had the self-respect of the first 
nobleman in the land, and one consequence of my 
resolution to deal with sailors as though they were my 
messmates more than my shipmates, and as though 
they had the feelings in them of men, capable of being 
maddened by insult and injury, and of being softened 
and rendered good and true men by kindness and 
consideration, was that when I was mate my watch was 
always the smartest of the two, and when I was captain 
my crew kept to me as if the ship had been their home 
ashore. Therefore, young gents, my advice to you is, 
never be too nautical ; let the spirit of old ocean be in 



182 WEEVIL'S LECTURE, 

your hearts to the full, but be careful to carry the 
proprieties of the land with you, and never forget, what- 
ever be your usage, or whatever lot may befall you, that 
you are gentlemen whom the people under you will 
respect, admire, and be loyal to as such, so long as you 
make them understand that you are true to the best 
feelings of your nature." 

I was so pleased with these remarks that I uttered 
a loud cheer, that was immediately taken up by all the 
others, and the room rang again to some very hearty, 
lively notes. Weevil looked extremely pleased, and 
gazed at the lads from one to another with a 'most 
benevolent and affectionate expression in his eyes. 

'* And now," said he, " young gents, for a few plain 
observations of a practical nature ; things I should be 
glad if ye'd keep fast in your memory, though of course 
it isn't to be expected you could grasp my meaning till 
you've been to sea for some time. First, as to collision. 
That is the greatest danger of these days, and I reckon 
that the shipmaster who's seen much sarvice and has 
never been in a mess of the kind is a man that truly 
deserves decorating. Now, here's a rule or two that 
ye'd be doing yourselves good by stowing away in your 
heads for future use. First of all, the officer of the 
watch should keep a bright and proper look-out at all 
times, and he should also see that the hands stationed 
for this duty are vigilant, and wide-awake to their 
responsibilities. Next, as I'm talking of sailing ships, 
always have your vessel under such sail as gives you 
command of her, because at any moment you may want 
her to answer the helm quickly. Make up your mind 
to act at once, and never shift your helm a second time, 
for the most drowning quality in a man that I'm aware 
of is indecision.** 



WEEVWS LECTURE. 183 

Old Gale coughed, and Weenl looked at him; hut, 
nothing heing said, the skipper proceeded. 

" Never cross a ship's hawse when you can pass 
under her stern. When navigation is diflScult by reason 
of crowded waters, keep the best men in the ship at the 
helm. And now for some advice touching anchoring. 
Take care never to ride with a short scope of cable if 
the sea's heavy. Always have your second anchor ready 
in case of the other getting foul. See your staysails and 
other canvas that may be needful all ready to help in 
keeping the anchor clear. Sight your anchor if you 
think it's foul, and never bring up in a ship's hawse if 
the wind's strong and there's a lee tide. Leakage in 
these days is diifferent from what it used to be ; I mean 
that when an iron plate gets a hole knocked in it, or 
rivets drop out, or landings open, it's more serious than 
the started butt or opened seam of a timber-built ship. 
StilT, I would say, disheartening as leaky ships are to 
seamen, never be afraid of a leak. Scores of seamen 
will tell you that for years and years, in voyages they 
have made, it was either pump or sink with them. A 
friend of mine told me he was twelve years at sea before 
he knew what a tight ship was. It is the first duty of 
a man to bring his ship home, whether he belongs forward 
or aft, and short of the breakdown or choking of the 
pumps, or the absolute exhaustion of the crew, there's 
no excuse for abandonment on the ground of leakage only. 
As to ice there's not much to fear from that if ye'U only 
make up your mind, owner or no owner, never to be in 
a hurry when hurry may be dangerous. Ice is a thing 
a man ought to be able to smell." 

" I always could," interrupted old Gale. 

"Ay, and so could I," exclaimed Weevil, "even in 
the midst of a snowstorm, and when the berg was to 



184 WEEVWS LECTURE, 

leeward and three mile oflF. Anyhow, if ye can't smell 
it, there's the thermometer to look at. There's nothing 
that ought to keep masters'and mates' eyes so skinned 
as ice. Ye want optics astern of ye, as well as on either 
side of your nose. I've been at night sailing amongst 
quantities of loose' ice, and found the only safe thing to 
do was to keep the mainyard aback, and the vessel 
under such sail as to give me ready command over her 
for wearing or backing astern quickly. Then, young 
gents, there's the question of dismasting. There's less 
chance of this disaster happening now in these days of 
wire-rigging than formerly, when hemp-rigging was 
used, which, when new, slackened, and was of no use as 
supports unless set up taut afresh, which might be 
required when no safe opportunity offered to do it ; yet, 
I've known ships to be dismasted by masts having been 
sprung unknown to the captain, perhaps through moving 
ships in harbour and getting foul of other vessels, and 
my advice to you is to remember, when you come to 
taking charge, always to carefully examine your spars 
before starting on long voyages, 'specially in the way of 
the cap or cross-trees. So with sails. Canvas, like 
crews, wants kindly usage, or it'll betray you. To get 
canvas furled or reefed with as little shaking as possible 
is a test of good seamanship in my opinion, and I should 
judge a good deal of a man's sailorly qualities by his 
method of going to work in that direction. See to your 
clewlines particularly, that they be sound ropes, and 
contrive that your buntlines, brails, reef points — all the 
ropes that are in constant friction with the sails — be of 
the softest material, for I've known many a sail to be 
split through friction of ropes, when other parts of it 
were strong enough to have held out in a hurricane. I 
should like to say something to you about squalls, how 



WEEVIL'S LECTURE, ■ 185 

best to behave in them; about loss of rudder s, the 
stowage of cargoes, and many other matters which 
belong to practical seamanship, and which you'll have 
thoroughly to master if ever you're to be ^eld qualified 
to take charge ; but until ye go to sea, and get to know 
the names of things, and find out what the ocean is like, 
and what a tumultuous playground it is, and how it 
requires as close watching as if every cloud overhead, 
and every billow underneath, was a wild beast, to be 
kept at bay only by keeping your eye fixed upon it, 
much of what I should have to say would be unintelli- 
gible to you. Therefore, young gentlemen, I'll wind up 
by exhorting ye to understand that the knowledge of 
navigation alone ain't going to make sailor-men of you. 
Larn it sartinly, and get to know as much of it as ye 
can, but don't let it boss the other requirements. The 
best sailors the world ever saw, the safest masters to 
sail under, the bravest and most skilful commanders to 
fight under, were the men who had served their time in 
coasters; and why? Because they had to go through 
such a training, they had to encounter so many risks, 
endure so many perils, meet with circumstances making 
such demands upon their instant judgment, prompt 
skill, and ready courage, that when they quitted their 
trade and shipped elsewhere they had nothing more to 
learn. They had seen the worst, and the sea had 
nothing fresh for them. Walk in their steps, young 
gentlemen, when ye go to sea; master all ye can, let 
nothing be too insignificant for you to ask about. Don't 
trouble yourselves about learning knots and how to 
make ornamental ends to ropes. Yiew a ship as a big 
machine, and reason her out for yourself, as the builders 
and riggers did when they put her together, and above 
all things never forget that the old red ensign is as noble 




186 WEEVIVS LECTURE. 

a flag as the red cross. It's flown over hearts as manly, 
deeds as brave, sufferings as great, heroism as beautiful 
as any ye can read about in naval histories. It's the 
symbol of the v^ealth and commerce of this country. 
Its signal halliards come to your hands, young gentle- 
men ; to the hands of you and to the like of you. Keep 
the old meteor hoisted, let it be untarnished, and by 
your conduct as men and sailors let it blow as proudly 
upon the breeze as ever it has since it was first hoisted 
in the name of Britannia. And so God bless ye, young 
gentlemen, and it is the hearty wish of Captain Weevil 
that you may all command fine ships, and add fresh 
glory to the name of the British sailor by your skill 
when in danger and your decision when in difiQculties, 
and your humanity towards your feUow-creatures and 
your integrity as men, and by your reverence for the 
Being whose majesty and power you will never better 
understand than when you are upon that old ocean 
whose heaving surface you have chosen for a calling 
and a home.'* 

Concluding his lecture in these words, my old friend 
Weevil seated himself amidst the loud applause of his 
audience, and the most impressive memory I carried 
away with me from Captain Gale's little house was the 
self-complacency in Weevil's face as he sat listening to 
the plaudits of the boys, with moist eyes fixed upon the 
chandelier, and his hands clasped upon his waistcoat* 



OLD SHIPS. 

There was very recently, and there may be still afloat, 
a ship aged ninety-five years, named the Cognac Packet, 
commanded by one Captain Bulton. She was built at 
Bursledon, Hants, in 1792, and took her name from the 
circumstance of having been engaged in carrying brandy 
from France. She was rigged as a brig, and is described 
as being very nearly as square as a box. The last port 
to which she belonged was Harwich, and the good people 
of that town may still be amused with a sight of one of 
the oldest ships in the country yet engaged in earning 
money for her owner. 

The fate of vessels is very much like the fate of 
human beings. The average life of a ship, I believe, 
is about twelve years. Some perish very soon after 
they are born, some struggle through a few years and 
then vanish, some go on living their allotted span pretty 
defiantly, though very unhappy in the gales of wind 
they encounter, and the misfortunes which overtake 
them in respect of the shifting of cargo, the losing of 
spars, failures in the engine-room, and so forth. Some, 
but they are few, survive into a venerable age, float 
hoarily upon the blue, and, with much creaking and 
rheumatic straining of their aged bones, go on sailing 
out of living memory, and arrive among a new genera- 
tion, who survey them as bits of fossilized history, and 
talk of the Monarchs who have died, the battles which 



188 OLD SHIPS. 

have been lost and won, the marvellous changes which 
have been wrought since the old ships first slipped down 
the ways to the sawing of a fiddler and the huzzas of a 
crowd. Unhappily, the life of a stout vessel which has 
done her work bravely does not always close with the 
honour and dignity one could wish. The ocean sepulchre 
is denied her. Her inveterate trick of obstinate domina- 
tion proves eventually her humiliation instead of her 
triumph. She shows very raggedly at last, and is laid 
by and offered to any one willing to pay a few pounds 
for the privilege of breaking her up. Perhaps if she 
were invariably knocked to pieces her dispersal would 
be only less dignified than her decent interment by old 
Neptune. The hammer would end her as a melancholy 
show. A wreck lying black and bare on the yellow sand 
of a shoal at low water is a dismal sight ; but a good 
old ship dismantled, lying alongside a quay, grey and 
with yawning seams, disdained by the maritime knackers, 
an echoing nursery for the rude and boisterous sport of 
mudlarks, is a far sadder spectacle. Yonder wave-swept 
hulk fell worthily in honourable conflict ; but this poor 
old craft, with a board in her rigging oflFering her for a 
mere trifle, is ending her days in distress and scorn, an 
object for the sneers of passers-by and for the stones of 
small boys. Were she a man-of-war she would engage 
attention. There would be a feeling of respect in those 
who regarded her. The imaginative mind would people 
her decks with trim salts, and decorate her with the red 
coat of the marine and the glittering ^^swab" of the 
naval officer of the day. As a vessel without tragic, 
romantic, or heroic memories, however, what significance 
can any one find in her melancholy appeal ? She is like 
an aged pauper for whom no union has been invented ; 
yet some of her triumphs over the wildness of waters 



OLD SHIPS. 189 

and the fury of winds, some of her achievements in the 
form of smart runs and dexterous escapes, and some of 
the pictures of the human story which runs through her 
life might if related detain her for many an eye which 
would otherwise see in her nothing but a frowsy, drowsy, 
grey and lean old butterbox* 

An instance of the base uses to which brave old ships 
may come at last is to be found in La Hogue, a vessel 
long famous as an Australian liner. She is now* 
a coal-hulk anchored off Funchal, Madeira. This ship 
was for years one of the best known of the fine fleet 
owned by the late Duncan Dunbar, and must to this 
hour be a name as familiar as a household word in 
many an Australian as in many an English home. She 
was buUt at Sunderland in 1853, and is therefore only 
thirty-four years old, a mere girl in comparison with 
that venerable dame, the Cognac Packet Yet in thirty- 
four years she has done such great and useful work that 
it would be diflBcult for any one to view her in her present 
grimy and squalid state without an emotion of pity. 
** Peace hath her victories, no less renowned than war," 
and craft of the kind of La Ilogue illustrate those 
victories as fabrics like Nelson's noble three-decker in 
Portsmouth Water symbolize and perpetuate the memo- 
ries of mighty deeds of arms. It would be interesting 
to know how many thousands of bales of wool the ship 
La Ilogue, now a sheer hulk in the dismallest sense of 
the words, has delivered safely in the East India Docks 
in her time; what quantities of useful commodities 
cpoken of under the heading of ''general cargo" she 
has conveyed to our thriving kinsmen at Sydney ; how 
many icebergs she has sighted in the thirty-two or 
thirty-three times she has rounded the Horn ; how many 
13 • 1887. 



190 OLD SHIPS. 

leagues of dark blue water she has traversed since her 
keel was first laid. Yet the true pathos of such a sheer 
hulk lies in thoughts of the people she has carried ; the 
infants who are now middle-aged men and women ; the 
blushing young ladies who are now hardy and seasoned 
matrons and^ many of them, grandmothers ; the spirited 
youths who paced her decks without a shilling in their 
pockets, and whose sons have long since inherited their 
very substantial squatting businesses up country. A 
hulk like La Hogue marks the flight of time even more 
startlingly than a gravestone. In the space of this 
vessel's life may be found many amazing chapters of the 
story of Australian progress, and the appeal she makes 
to the passengers of the great ocean steamers touching 
at Madeira must inevitably gather force from the per- 
ception that to her and such ships as she the Australian 
story owes no little of its brilliancy. One is tempted to 
moralize on this poor old coal-hulk as did Hamlet upon 
the skull of Yorick. Where are the gilt, the mirrors, 
the finery of her cuddy? Into what land of shadows 
has vanished the little procession of stewards bearing 
in the dinner from the small galley forward, past sobbing 
scuppers and wet decks, sloping like the roof of a house ? 
Possibly the melancholy concertina may be still heard 
of nights on the ship's forecastle, when the labour of 
heaving out or taking in coal is over; but never shall 
the hearty fiddler, perched upon the bpom forward, be 
there listened to again, nor the slapping of Jack's feet in 
a hornpipe, nor the sounds of a piano aft, with couples 
airily revolving on the poop whilst the curl of silver 
moon slides down past the awning, and the solemn 
respiration of the equatorial swell awakens a sound as 
of deep sighs from the dew-darkened canvas swinging 
softly in and out from the masts. 



OLD 8EIF& 191 

Some ships have proved noble relics in their day. 
Such was the Centurion, the queer old tub in which 
Commodore Anson cruised in the great South Sea, and 
with which he captured the tall Spanish galleon. Such 
was the Golden Hind, Sir Francis Drake's ship, which 
lay, a wonder and a show, for many years, off Deptford, 
when she was finally broken up. A chair was made out 
of her planks, and presented to the University of Oxford, 
which gave rise to Cowley's epigram — 

''Drake and his ship could not have wished from ^ate 
An happier station or more blest estate ; 
For ]o 1 a seat of endless rest is given 
To her in Oxford and to him in Heaven.*' 

The Golden Hind has long since disappeared, but we 
have the noblest trophy of all the ages with us in the 
old Victory, slumbering dotingly off Portsmouth. What 
craft worthy to perpetuate the traditions she serves to 
extend shall replace her when her time comes? The 
country ought to make sure, however, that that time 
shall be as long in coming as it is possible for human 
effort to contrive. Some may venture to doubt if the 
Victory is as well cared for as so grand, so incomparable, 
so irreplaceable a relic merits. Familiarity has perhaps 
bred a certain indifference and induced a lack of that 
pious care which it is the first duty of the nation to 
bestow on the structure in which the famous admiral 
died. Such a ship as this ought to be as carefully 
tended as Westminster Abbey. Even as an impulse 
and an inspiration, she is of prodigious national value. 
No sailor can view her without a stirring of his heart's 
best blood in him, and one feels that she ought to be 
cherished with not less devotion than is dedicated abroad 
to the relics and remains of saints. It is, of course, 
impossible to conceive of any merchantman rivalling in 



193 OLD SHIPS. 

interest the famous ships of war. Yet the red ensign 
has its history toD, and there are vessels whose sheer 
hulks posterity would have been glad to look at. There 
was the Indiaman, for instance, in which old Nathaniel 
Dance beat off Linois' squadron : she would have richly 
embellished any tract of waters. Another vessel the 
world would not willingly have lost was the Betsy Cains, 
as rare a fabric in her day as the ^' first folio Shake- 
speare " is rare as a book in these times. She brought 
over to England William Prince of Orange, in 1688, 
and she went to pieces in a gale of wind off Tynemouth, 
in February, 1827, one hundred and thirty-nine years 
later. It is supposed that she was by no means a new 
ship when used by the Prince, so that she might have 
been a hundred and fifty or a hundred and sixty years 
of age when she perished. She had been one of Queen 
Anne's royal yachts, and there is every reason to 
suppose that had she been suffered to enjoy a tranquil 
old age instead of being put to trade between Shields 
and Hamburg she might still be in existence, the oldest 
vessel in the world, and of its kind the greatest curiosity. 
If, however, ships could speak, we may take it they 
would choose rather to die an honourable death at sea 
than languish on for a few years in the miserable con- 
dition of a coal hulk. The many, in Australia as here, 
who remember La Hogue in her prime will think of her 
now with sorrow. 

There are marine survivals, however, of vanished 
structures which in their way are hardly less interesting 
than the craft in their integrity would themselves be. 

An old brass cannon and a piece of a ship*s capstan 
of a pattern that probably has not been seen within 
the last hundred and fifty years were thrown up on the 
Mexican coast near to Acapulco, and it is believed by 



OLD SniPK 193 

those who are knowing in such matters that they are 
the very small remains of a large* Spanish galleon — 
one of the Manila ships — which' foundered ofif Acapulco 
shortly after she had started on a voyage to the 
Philippines. It may be questioned whether the relics 
of an Armada ship would be more interesting in any 
sense than those of one of the great treasure-vessels 
which formed the cynosure of all the buccaneering eyes 
of the day. To mention the Acapulco ship is to hark 
back to the days of Gandish, of Drake, Dampier, Anson, 
and a score of other great and hardy sea-captains, 
who made it the business of their lives to ** singe the 
King of Spain his beard." There could have been 
nothing more engaging, more inviting, more brilliant 
to the piratical imagination than the dream of the con- 
tents of the galleon's hold. Grusadoes of gold, chests 
of pieces of eight, crucifixes of precious ore exquisitely 
wrought, silver and gold in bars, silks, spices, tea — 
a commodity inexpressibly costly — chocolate and sweet- 
meats, were among the items of freights which heaped 
their prodigious values to flush with the main-hatch, 
so that there was scarcely room for a rat to turn amidst 
the glorious and princely commodities, whose owner 
was his most Ghristian Majesty. The samples which 
the buccaneers fell in with justified them in forming 
extraordinary theories as regards the values of the 
annual vessels which sailed with the King of Spain's 
money. Dampier, for instance, in 1684, came across 
three ships all laden as deep as they could swim. He 
found in the biggest ship many tons of marmalade of 
quinces, and a stately mule, and he ought also to have 
found in her 800,000 pieces of eight, which had been put 
on board of her for conveyance to Panama ; but unhappily 
for Dampier, the merchants, whilst loading her, hearing 



194 OLD 8H1P8. 

that the freebooters \9ere cruising about in the neighbour- 
hood, ordered the^money to be taken out of her and 
brought ashore. There are some very curious par- 
ticulars of the Acapulco ship given by the Abb6 EaynaU 
He describes her as a vessel of about 2000 tons, and he 
adds that she was despatched every year from the port 
of Manila. The law was supposed to prohibit her &om 
carrying more than 4000 bales of merchandise, but she 
was usually loaded with at least double that quantity. 
The cost of building and of fitting out and the expenses 
of the voyage were borne by the Government, whose 
indemnification never exceeded 76,000 piastres, nearly 
£17,000. The departure of the vessel was usually fixed 
for the month of July. Her practice was to steer north- 
ward as far as the 80th degree of latitude, where she 
picked up the trade wind which blew her to her desti- 
nation. The captain had his course pricked for him, 
and the smallest deviation from it was attended with 
severe penalties. It took the unwieldy old waggon six 
months to plough the peaceful Pacific to the Philippines. 
The Abbe attributes this incredible slowness to the vessel 
being overstocked with men and merchandise, and to 
the timidity of her people, who would frequently heave 
their ship to on a fine, quiet night, through fear of the 
darkness. 

Baynal, however, omits to point out a difference 
between the annual ship from Manila to Acapulco, and 
the annual ship from Acapulco to Manila. The former 
was mainly the object of the buccaneers* attacks, the 
reason being that when she sailed from Manila, being 
deeply laden with a variety of bulky goods, such as 
Chinese silks and manufactures, Indian stuffs of all 
kinds, calicoes and chintz, besides embroidery, gold- 
smiths' work, and so forth, the produce of the Chinese 



OLD SHirS. 195 

living at Manila, there was no room for mounting her 
tier of guns. In addition to this, her crew were as few 
as was consistent with her safe navigation, so that her 
space should not be crowded with provisions. She was, 
therefore, weakly manned and armed disproportionately 
to her capacity, and was, in consequence, the prey of the 
freebooters. Her value was not equal to that of the 
other ship, but she was rich enough to repay piratical 
proceedings, her cargo being generally estimated at 
three millions of dollars. On the other hand, the chief 
freight of the ship from Acapulco was silver and gold. 
She carried no bulky cargo, there was plenty of room 
in her, and before she left port her lower tier was 
mounted and some companies of soldiers added to sup- 
plement the fighting powers of the crew, amounting in 
all to about 600 men. It is reasonable, then, that 
our friends the freebooters should have looked askant 
at the Acapulco ship when she happened to be bound 
to Manila. 

These vessels were built at the Philippines, of timber 
that did not splinter, with sides much thicker and 
stronger than those of shipa of the same burden con- 
structed in Europe. Captain Cooke (not to be con- 
founded with the later great circumnavigator), who 
started, in company with Eogers and Courtney, in 1708, 
to capture the Acapulco ship, gives a graphic account 
of the fight and the failure of the contest. The Duke, 
the DuchesSy and the Marquis were the three English- 
men that attacked her. The struggle was a long one. 
The galleon was a tall ship, in the old meaning of the 
word, and her people fought for her furiously. Her 
burden was 900 tons, and in addition to 450 of a 
crew, besides passengers, she had 150 European pirates 
on board, who, having their ill-gotten booty with them, 



196 OLD SHIPS. 

were resolved to defend it to the last. Spite of the 
incessant raids made upon the annual ship by the 
most desperate set of sailors that ever went to sea, 
she was only captured three times, namely, by Candish 
in 1587, by Eogers in 1709, and by Anson in 1742. 
The account in Candish's voyage of his capture of the 
ship, which was named the Santa Anna, is peculiarly 
graphic and vigorous. It was on the 4fch of November 
that our brave and great seaman fell in with the 
Spaniard. In the afternoon they were close enough to 
exchange broadsides. She was a vessel of 700 tons, 
apparently full of men, to oppose whom Candish had 
not above fifty or sixty at most. Not a creature was to 
be seen on board the Spaniard, so carefully had they 
crowned their defences, though from behind their 
** sights," as they were called, they discharged lances, 
javelins, rapiers, and *'an innumerable quantity of large 
stones, which they threw overboard upon our heads and 
into our ship so fast, and being so many of them, that 
they put us off the ship again with the loss of two of 
our men, who were slain, and four or five wounded." 
However, the English continued to ply them so hard 
with shot that the Spaniards gave up, and, after a fight 
that bad lasted nearly six hours, hoisted a fiag of truce. 
The ship's freight is represented as consisting of 122,000 
pezoes of gold, with large quantities of silk, satin, 
damask, musk, ^'and divers other merchandise and 
great plenty of all manner of provisions, with the choice 
of many conserves and several sorts of very good 
wine." 

This conflict is only less memorable than Drake's 
famous fight with the Caca/uego. The vessel was not 
an Acapulco ship, but she was as good in her way as 
the richest of them. It took Drake six days to unload 



OLD SHIPS. 197 

the prize. A Spanish writer, Lopez Vaz, says that 
there were in the Gacafuego 850,000 pezoes of silver, 
and 40,000 pezoes of gold, all which was "customed,** 
as the expression then was. " But what treasure," he 
adds, "they had uncustomed I know not, for many 
times they carry almost as much more as they pay 
custom for ; otherwise the king would take it from them 
if they should be known to have any great sum." It 
dazzles the imagination to read of these wonderful 
prizes. How heavily the haughty Don suffered by the 
amazing audacity and courage of Drake alone is a 
matter of history. It is calculated by Lopez Vaz that 
the English captain carried from the coast of Peru 
nearly a million and a quarter ducats' worth of silver. 
He also carried away 100,000 pezoes of gold^ equal to 
ten quintals, each quintal valued at 1500 Spanish ducats, 
besides gold and silver ornaments, pearls, precious 
stones, coined money, and other things of great value. 
The whole cargo brought home by the Golden Hind 
was valued at £800,000. This is a large sum when 
regard is had to the comparative value of money. Small 
wonder that the Great South Sea became the haunt of 
sailors with easy consciences. It was only necessary, 
long after the time of the noble Drake, to speak of the 
Acapulco ship to recall the glorious captures of Sir 
Francis, and to make the very ocean that washed the 
seaboard of Mexico and of the South American conti- 
nent seem to run with auriferous surges in the enchanted 
imaginations of the lean and fearless gentlemen of 
Limehouse and Greenhithe. 

Of course, the most renowned of all those old conflicts 

with the Don was Commodore Anson's taking of the 

Nuestra Senhora de Cabadonga, whose commander was 

' a Portuguese named Dom Jeronimo de Montero. This 



198 OLD SE1P8. 

wonderful galleon was pierced for sixty-four guns, though 
she only carried thirty-six when she came into action, 
most of them being twelve-pounders, and seventeen of 
tbem brass. But then she also carried twenty-eight 
petereroes along her rails, quarters, and tops, each of 
these little pieces, which were of the nature of a swivel, 
shooting four-pound balls. Her j&ghting force consisted 
of 640 men. The wonder of this famous action lies in 
the inequality of the contest. The Centurion was rusty 
and foul with long keeping the sea ; there was, besides, 
much sickness on board ; moreover, she had originally 
started with the very worst kind of crew that the 
judgment of a Government could select for the extending 
of Britannia's name and fame in distant parts ; and a 
large proportion of these aged cripples and farmhouse 
greenhorns were dead. The Spaniard was in a wonderful 
posture of defence. She was well furnished with small 
arms, and fitted with close quarters and a strong net- 
work of 2-in. rope, fortified with half-pikes, placed in 
the manner of chevaiux de frise, to prevent the enemy 
from boarding. Nevertheless, she had sixty-four men 
killed and eighty-four wounded, whilst the Centurion 
had only two men killed, and a lieutenant and sixteen 
wounded, all of whom, with the exception of one, 
recovered. There is a true Nelsonian touch in Anson's 
disposition of his slender company. Thirty of the best 
marksmen were in the tops ; two men were placed at 
a gun to load it ; and gangs formed of ten men each 
were appointed to go from gun to gun to run them out 
and fire them as fast as they were loaded. By this 
means the Centurion was enabled to keep up an incessant 
fire. The value of the prize was reckoned at a million 
and a half of dollars. The Acapulco ship continued to 
ply long after this business, but the buccaneers had 



OLD SHIPS. 199 



abandoned the field, the pirate pure and simple could 
not find his account in the South Sea, and stuck to the 
West Indian parallels, and so the old craft, made famous 
by the repeated efforts to capture them, sank into the 
general obscurity of the ocean fleets. 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 

I AM never weary of surveying the picture of the English 
Channel from the summit of the North Foreland, Not 
in the wildest weather, not even when the bitter January 
north-east gale flings something of the weight of the 
German Ocean into the stress of billows, do you ever 
witness a sea here comparable to what runs in small 
gales further south and west ; the liquid tract is hedged 
about by shoals, and let the wind blow from what 
quarter it will there is some bank of sand or forefoot of 
chalk rock to break the fury of the surge. But, on the 
other hand, here pass such processions of ships as must 
be sought for in vain in any other maritime highway. 
The charm of deep-sea fishing is, you never know what 
you are going to catch. So here, as you stand gazing 
oceanwards, hard by the white Lighthouse, you never 
can guess what sort of picture will present itself next. 
There is the true sea atmosphere here too, the airy 
summer distant junction that makes a mirage of the far- 
off becalmed sail, vague dimnesses of lingering smoke 
which give a sober colouring to the bold stare of the 
white cloud peering over the edge of some indefinable 
haze, the hard sharpness of the green sea-line trembling 
against the cold grey, the phantasmal swarming of 
shadows in the gathering glow of moonshine whose 
vibratory lines of icy radiance seem to be drawn, like 



SEASIDE EFFECTS, 201 

silver wire, longer and longer yet by the countless busy 
fingers of the restless waters. The blot or two of faint- 
ness, star-like and illusive, hanging in the far-off sky, 
denoting the coast of France, affects the eye as a fancy, 
defines no limits, but, on the contrary, fires the imagina- 
tion with dreams of distance. The frame is perfect, let 
the month be what it will, and the canvas changes its 
beauties and its inspirations to every glance. 

There are many who abhor the sea. It is a waste 
without meaning or music. There are no syllables for 
their ears in the thunder of its surf, no thoughts too 
deep for tears to be got from the soft and melancholy 
singing of the foamless ripples, no glory in the meridian 
light standing like a pillar of fire in its deep heart, 
no grandeur in the greatness and the mystery of its 
dominions, no sovereignty in the storm-demons* career 
on the roaring backs of their foaming coursers, no 
magic in the scarlet pavilions of the opening morn. 
Old ocean may ** break, break, break," in vain for such 
honest folks. Sentiment cannot step one inch beyond 
the memory of the heaving steamboat, the pale-faced 
Frenchman, poor Smithers with his head in a tureen, 
and another half-hour yet before the pier shall show 
its nose. 

Perhaps if such people had even a little liking for 
the sea she would use them better. After all, old ocean 
does not consist altogether of crossing between Calais 
and Dover and the Bay of Biscay 0. There is a great 
deal more further on. You may begin with the little 
child standing to its knees in the summer surf, and not 
stop till the heart of the cyclone is entered. From the 
top of this white foreland height one gets as pretty a 
hint of the magnificent raree-show as the heart could 
desire. The feeling is like that of standing in Botten 



202 SEASIDE EFFECTS. 

Row and seeing the people pass. It is a lovely girl with 
the eyes of the South and the hair and skin of Thnle, it 
is a gouty and groaning old man, it is a lordly creature, 
nobly horsed, it is a poor little scarecrow blundering 
along and getting home in the end. 

Ships are like human beings. I have said so again 
and again, and I believe it as ardently as if I were the 
first man to affirm it. Observe yonder yacht. It will 
not do to pretend that she does not know herself to be 
beautiful. She illustrates Pope's exquisite expression 
of the character of a fine lady : — 

•* Favours to none, to aU she smiles extends ; 
Oft she rejects, but never once offends." 

Yes, the smile of sunlight on her bright and lovely 
canvas she extends to all, even to the poor little oyster- 
man dropping respectfully into her wake. But whom 
does she favour? She rejects the enamoured caress of 
the wave with a saucy smiting of her bows, but that she 
does not offend it you may tell by observing how the 
kiss is again and again attempted. She fits the scene 
like the gull that is flapping past her on a course as 
straight as a rook*s, the dye of its wings concealing 
them to the bare sight, and leaving nothing visible but 
the snow-wliite body that but for its constancy might 
pass for the melting head of a little sea. Now, over- 
whelming to the gaze of the radiant little sea-coquette, 
there steams solemnly past a huge white troopship, her 
side perforated like a sieve with scuttles or port-holes, 
and her stern full of handsome windows. Her bulk 
makes her appear to move slowly, yet she passes the 
yacht as fast as a man could walk. What is her speed ? 
I assume her length to be so many feet ; and, counting 
in seconds the time she occupies in passing a buoy that 
swirls to the tide in the grip of its ground tackle and 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 203 

leans southwardly, I calculate her rate to be twelve and 
a quarter knots. Her tall white sides show up finely 
against the blue beyond. There is a sort of sheen upon 
her that seems to overflow her outline like the pearly 
glimmer that white sails throw a little way beyond their 
own bolt-ropes ; it has the effect of a thin radiant mist, 
out of which, when she starboards her helm for a more 
northerly course and brings the sunshine to bear upon 
her windows, there leap double and triple rows of 
tongues of white fire one after another, so like the 
flashings of a broadside that the ear is instinctively 
bent to catch the report. An immense double-funnelled 
steamer outward bound comes along, and when the two 
vessels are abreast I am surprised to notice that whilst 
the troopship is half as tall again as the other, the ocean 
boat is nearly twice her length. The red flag at the 
ensign staff is dipped, and down very handsomely comes 
the red cross. Those men-o'-warsmen know how to 
handle bunting. She keeps her hat off some minutes 
after the merchantman has mastheaded his colours, why 
I cannot imagine, until I spy a little brig hidden by 
her structure, slide into view past her quarter with a 
little bit of a red flag lowered. So, bowing to the 
salutations she receives as she goes, the great white 
ship, sparkling like some diamond-encrusted hill, thrusts 
majestically onwards, with a curl of rich white under 
her bow, and trailing a short, smooth wake that shines 
like a rainbow under her counter to the lustre of her 
stem windows. 

She and the fine new mail-boat dwarf all about them 
into insignificance. They detain the eye, and what will 
be picturesque when they are gone is now somewhat 
mean and squalid. As they grow small and vague in 
the distance, the charms of yonder old collier steal out. 



204 SEASIDE EFFECTS. 

Every cloth is of different hue ; she is like an infirm 
old body who, in an hour of bitter need, has stripped a 
scarecrow, and draped herself in garments designed to 
terrify birds; she seems to hug her rags to her lean 
breast as she staggers onwards with uncertain gait. 
Yet the spirit of the beauty of the deep possesses her ; 
the sunlight is upon her; she hobbles against a back- 
groimd of clouds of cream and bronze, the salt foam 
pings under her bends, there is distance, too, to soften 
her. An old man in a tall hat, the aged lady's husband, 
no doubt, stands at the tiller, gazing sometimes aloft, 
sometimes directing a glance over either quarter. The 
breeze heads her; the old boom-foresail cannot do its 
work ; the tide does not serve her, and the lightship a 
long way past her begins to slide ahead instead of astern 
of her. Down jib ! down stay foresail ! up main^il, 
and let go the anchor ! Three or four heads bob along 
behind the rail, a rusty piece of iron is let fall, the cable 
is helped through the pipe, and the lean, weary, and 
spiritless craft, like to some beldame tottering off the 
dusty high-road to rest her creaking limbs upon the 
grass, nods peacefully upon the quiet waters, and so 
shall go on slumbering till the wind comes fair again 
and starts the little crew upon clanking the crazy wind- 
lass. 

A fairer, but not a quainter, sight is the full-rigged 
ship coming up Channel. It is blowing a brave westerly 
wind; she carries it a little abaft the beam off here, 
and ploughs through it with home-sick eagerness. 
There is a yearning in the lifting of every cloth upon 
her. The very skysail, the tiny topmast stretch of 
cloth, strains its hardest, like a child's distended cheeks 
with its lips at a penny trumpet, as though from its 
airy seat it had caught sight of the ship's home far up 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 205 

the gleaming river. Yes ! this is no idle conceit. I 
have observed again and again a something in the 
appearance of a ship close to home after a long voyage 
that denoted a perception of her weary galloping and 
cantering and ^Talking being nearly over, as complete in 
its way as the sentience expressed by the dog or the 
horse. The hearts and thoughts of her sailors are like 
a soul in her. They make her a living thing. Yonder 
ship has the impetuous bearing of a human desire. It 
is idle to pretend that, were her head pointed the con- 
trary way and the wind reversed, she would discover 
the same manner of going. She floats up swiftly and 
proudly upon the gaze, with excitement in every little 
hurry of shadow upon her rounded canvas, and im- 
patience in the sliding thrust of her cutwater. The 
pilots flag blows at her peak; and the only self-pos- 
sessed man on board is the pilot himself — that little 
figure marching to and fro from the helm to the break 
of the poop. The tug snorting in chase of her a mile 
astern helps the suggestion of eagerness. Here is such 
a picture as was never yet hung upon manorial or castle 
walls — the wet flashing of light from the ship's side, the 
triumphant heralding of her progress by the tremulous 
pulling of the white pinions upon her jibbooms, the 
snowstorm at her forefoot, the gilt veins wherever the 
glory in the clear sky can find a mirror, however dull ; 
the delicacy of spar and rigging against the blue ; the 
spot of colour aloft ; the slow darkening of the hollows 
of her sails as she hauls her wind. 

Curious to see are four torpedo-boats going through 
it like sharks in chase. The churning of the screws 
makes a bed of foam of their wake ; and it is this short 
length of flying whiteness which one sees before catch- 
ing sight of the black fire-propelled structures which 

14 



206 SEASIDE EFFECTS. 

raise the sputter. A small head sea meets them^ the 
water flies in bine sheets from their rending stems, 
and they speed gaily through foam-arches of their own 
building. Their procession is well-ordered. An exact 
distance one from another is kept, though travelling at 
eighteen or twenty miles an hour. They pass like a 
flight of crows at sunset homeward bound. Their beds 
of spume shine like stars in the distance when the little 
fabrics themselves are no longer visible, and were you 
to catch sight of them on a sudden you would imagine 
them the bases of water-spouts in the act of forming. 
Such surprising velocity makes but a poor show of the 
dull and sullen pace of yonder ugly tank, with bow so 
cocked and funnel and masts so aslant that she looks to 
be ashore. She is flying light, and whenever she dips 
her head two-thirds of her propeller come out of water, 
and amid the hill of froth you spy the black blades of 
the screw revolving like the arms of a windmill. She 
is so gaunt, coarse, hideous in shape, so minute and 
abundant a violation of every law that governs taste in 
shipbuilding, that imagination can do nothing with her. 
Behold that pole-compass forking up to half the height 
of her funnel ; follow the elegant camel-backed line of 
her length ; observe the dainty taste discoverable in the 
union of slate-colour and red, and in a smoke-stack 
lozenged on a white ground with yellow and blue. Of 
what tricks of trade and convulsions of economic mania 
is this horrid spectacle the outcome? The sunlight 
streams upon her, the glad water heaves under her, the 
horizon along which she passes has many enrichments 
of vaporous tints ; but the spirit of beauty withholds its 
magic — there is nothing in all the spells of sea and sky, 
of cloud and atmosphere, to brighten with an instant's 
enchantment that iron ugliness. And, as if to vex the 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 207 

eye, she passes with hesotted slowness. " The good die 
first." This is a north country — say Hartlepool — boat, 
that will want three hours to come and go. 

The prettiest things are the fleetest. The gazelle is 
soon out of sight, but the crab has a trick of tarrying. 
Now comes a foreign ironclad. Her flag is up and down 
and indistinguishable. How, then, do we know that she 
is a foreigner ? By seeing at once that she is not an 
English ship. The art of furling, of tricing up a bunt, 
or squaring to a hair, of hauling taut, and of making a 
ship carry her furniture, whether in port or at sea, just 
as a bluejacket carries his clothes, is not every nation- 
ality's. I am, indeed, acquainted with but one country 
that has it in perfection ; but modesty will not suffer me 
to name her. Yet, let me be just. There is something 
shambling in the walk of yonder ironclad, and a want 
of finish, of final touches aloft and about her, which to a 
nautical eye is warrant enough that were her flag to 
' blow out it would not reveal the red cross. Yet I am 
bound to say that the other day I saw a large English 
ironclad pass through the GuUs under sail, and that 
thus equipped — whether because of the dinginess of the 
canvas, or the disproportion between the hull and the 
masts, or the abominable set of the foresail, the foot of 
which hanging over the forestay (as I took it to be, 
though I could scarcely credit my eyes) gave the whole 
stretch of canvas something of the look of a tent, she 
made as ill a figure as could be imagined. Such speci- 
mens of unsightliness cannot be helped. You may rig 
your ironclads to look like ships, but the moment you 
sheet home and hoist away the delusion is ended. Erect 
a funnel upon a Symondite and the travestie would not 
be more consummate. 

But the procession viewed from this height goes on, 



y 



208 SEASIDE EFFECTS 

and one speedily forgets all abont armourclads. Here 
comes a little butter-rig from the West country; a 
galley-punt from Deal on a hovelling job, flashes and 
vanishes amid the ridged waters; a concourse of sinacks 
from the North Sea soberly steer for Bamsgate; a whole 
flight of schooners pass, heading for the Downs. Botten 
Bow is not more diverting in the height of the season, 
and all the while the clear sweet wind whistles gaily 
past the ear, and the line of rocks reverberates the '* low 
melodious thunder *' of the surf. 

After the long golden silence of the summer the 
echoes of the cliffs will have been rudely awakened by 
some very tempestuous winds. For days and weeks 
the sea may have stretched like quicksilver, reflecting 
the perfect blue of the English skies in its brilliant and 
polished surface. The sands wiU have sparkled with 
the sheen of gilt from the sun, the cliffs given back the 
brilliance, and visitors panting in the shadows, in which 
the thermometer would have registered a temperature* 
of eighty-five degrees, will have thought with jealous 
yearnings of the simple habits of islanders, who take 
their pleasures in garbs as plain as a girdle of leaves. 
But on a sudden the spell is broken ; hoarse winds are 
howling, dark clouds flying, squalls of rain lashing the 
window-glass, and the vexed sea making the aspect of 
its heaving plains wintry with the turbulent flinging 
of snowstorms of its own foam. 

Yet a day full of wind should be welcomed by the 
seaside visitor. People talk of running down to the 
sea-coast to *' get a blow," and their excursion cannot 
but prove a disappointment in its way if they find them- 
selves landed in a stagnant atmosphere and in view of 
a sea as slimy as that upon which the bark of the 
Ancient Mariner lay rotting. The seaside offers no such 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 209 

suggestion of health as its own strong hreezes. Every- 
thing is quickened into delicious vitality by the bright 
and viewless current of air rushing over the sea, full of 
sounds of laughter and song. There are, indeed, some 
drawbacks. Fresh, small gales will blow people's hats 
away, take the curl out of feathers, and temporarily 
distort the outline of the human form by a singular 
arrangement of curves. But let the ladies be satisfied 
to know that their charms are seldom more fascinating 
than when the artist hands of the winds go to work 
upon them, shake or disarrange the gold or auburn or 
raven tresses, or delicately hint at perfections of figure 
which fashion only too carefully disguises. Again, a 
strong wind is obnoxious to the photographer who 
practises his art on the sands or beach. It blows away 
the screens his comrades hold aloft for the purpose 
of casting a delicate- shadow upon the triple chins of 
the buxom dame whose grin of expectation at the camera 
is probably the funniest form of merriment the human 
countenance is equal to. It blows the open umbrella 
out of the hand, and sometimes carries it into the sea. 
It has been known to level Aunt Sally, to capsize the 
milkman and empty his pails, and to make a balloon 
of the sweetmeat stall of the old woman who has been 
reckless enough to protect herself from the heat by 
attaching a canvas cover to her stand. But, on the 
other hand, it gives a proud crest to the tall breaker, 
it makes a kind of living light of the white and moving 
mass of froth upon the beach, every little gleaming pool 
amongst the rocks in which children hunt for crabs 
and shrimps trembles with its own stress of waves, and, 
as if sea and coast were not lively enough, there are the 
clouds on high to keep the whole picture alive with their 
fleeting shadows. 



210 SEASIDE EFFECTS. 

One drawback to the windy day at the seaside is its 
tendency to bring up rain. A south-wester is notoriously 
squally, but there is very little dependence to be placed 
upon any other quarter that the wind may choose to 
blow from. If a windy day by the seaside is a delight, 
assuredly a wet day is an intolerable blank. Inland 
spas provide against a low barometer by winter gardens, 
sheltered spaces, glass halls in which there is generally 
something going on in the shape of a concert or a band 
of music. But those who direct the affairs of our seaside 
resorts seem to trouble themselves very little in this 
direction. As a rule, when it is wet by the seaside 
there is nothing to be done except to read the papers 
or turn the pages of a novel. Even if people are 
fortunate enough to procure lodgings directly facing 
the sea, there is scarcely anything to be seen, for the 
ocean is shrouded with the slate and grey of rain, and 
the view through the weeping glass of the windows is 
in the last degree dismal and depressing. It is even 
worse still in a back street, with nothing but a bay- 
window over the way, through which it is possible for 
the eyesight to penetrate far enough to arrive at the 
outlines of a family of children fighting and quarrelling. 
Seaside municipal authorities should awaken to the 
perception that it very frequently rains during the 
summer holidays when their towns are crowded^ and 
that it would be a very great convenience to visitors if 
some resorts were furnished where they could kill the 
hours in dry clothes and without the need of holding 
umbrellas over their heads until the clouds broke and 
the sun or moon shone forth again. '' I cannot dine on 
hardbake," exclaims Charles Dickens ruefully in one of 
his sketches. It is difficult to pass a holiday in a 
lodging. The pictures are not usually very attractive. 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 211 

A man will not commonly find the source of many 
cheerful reflections in the looking-glass. It is possible 
sometimes to glean a few items of local information 
from the servant, but she is generally in a hurry, and 
her powers of conversation are speedily exhausted. 
However, most happily for the seaside visitor, the wet 
day is not the rule. The sea breeze is much more 
constant. At some coast towns, indeed, wind is nearly 
always blowing, and the oldest inhabitants are known 
to view the dead calm as a species of phenomenon. 
People subject to headaches, or persons suffering from 
short temper, would not spend a pleasant holiday in 
such spots. A dull pain in the brow, or the obligation 
to keep the brim of one's hat securely gripped by both 
hands, is not conducive to merry-making. Then, again, 
in towns where it is constantly blowing strong the angles 
of streets are notoriously sharp. There are many gusty 
openings. The glazed lamps quiver as though they 
chattered with their teeth. The boatmen are as warmly 
clad in the dog-days as at Christmas time, and there 
is always some sort of disaster happening about a mile 
out. Of such windy towns the sensitive visitor should 
beware. 

True enjoyment of the seaside is best got out of a 
variety of weather, wet excepted. In every mood of 
nature there is a charm to any one who will take the 
trouble to unriddle it. Even the most trying of all 
the fine weather days, the stagnant morning and after- 
noon, when the rocks are so hot that one might almost 
expect a beefsteak to frizzle upon them, when there is 
not a stir in the atmosphere, when the ripples roll like 
dying things upon the beach and expire foamless with 
a sigh, when eating is not to be thought of without a 
kind of loathing, and when tobacco-smoke is without 



212 SEASIDE EFFECTS, 

flavour ; eTen in such a loafing, lazy, perspiring day as 
this beauties may be witnessed which will hereafter 
serve to give sweetness and light to the stock of holiday- 
memories which are carried away. It is unpardon- 
able indeed if the charm such a day as this holds should 
escape a man, for the heat will allow him to do nothing 
else but look. He will remember afterwards the hot 
distance of the sea sinuously melting into the rusty 
blue of the sky ; the old collier still as a painting, with 
patched sails hanging motionless, and the sneaking 
current throwing a dull trembling light into her sides, 
and a dark and trickling vein breaking from the short 
black cable at its point of contact with the surface ; the 
smoke of a distant steamer floating dark as a thunder- 
cloud, and making a mirage of the heavy, hazy remote- 
ness, through the dusty blueness of which may be 
faintly witnessed the sulphur-coloured brows of a body 
of vapour that has been steadfastly hanging in the same 
spot for hours. 

But the sea is melancholy without life, and it is well 
when the glaring stillness is broken by the voice of the 
little gale, and when the wide monotony of deep and 
breathless repose is scattered as by the injection of a 
living principle. It is the swift, joyous roll of the 
breaker that makes the sea-bath delicious ; it is the 
movement everywhere that fills and delights the eye. 
Ashore the trees wave like signals to the sea ; windows 
flash like a discharge of musketry to the alternations of 
pouring sunshine and veiling cloud. The yellow crops 
roll in billows, and a spmt of life may be traced in the 
most distant hills, where the violet shadows and the 
yellow radiance are sporting. Seawards, boats are flying 
with the speed of the gulls, whose hoarse salt cries are 
echoed from the head of one sea to another. Big ships 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 218 

swing in state along their course, and shine like moons 
as they float along the blue of the horizon. In the 
enclosed waters there is a perpetual fountain-like music 
of ripples upon which the wherries splash and tumble. 
Nothing is still. Every flag blows merrily; the wind 
catches up the sound of human voices and laughter, and 
makes their echoes multitudinous by the broad-casting 
of its vast wings. A strong breeze at the seaside may 
have its inconveniences, but it is the one condition of 
the coast which visitors who desire health and delight 
for the eye will wish for. 

But perhaps the finest seaside effects are to be 
witnessed in winter, after a long and heavy fall of snow. 
On the sea-coast, snow is only a little less lovely in 
its effects than moonshine. It does not quite equal 
the bland luminary's power of at once chastening and 
enriching, but it has a quality of surprising the eye with 
beauties above the magic of the orb's most sparkling 
beam. A heavy fall will transform leagues and leagues 
of the seaboard into sheer wonderland. The line of coast 
runs shining into airy blue distances, as crystalline in 
aspect as the paring of the new moon hanging high in 
the midday heavens. One might, indeed, suppose that 
old winter had changed these islands into a vast terri- 
tory of ice, to judge from the sheen floating in a misty 
sort of radiance into the atmosphere from the tracts 
of sloping dazzle ; and the fancy is completed by the 
glaring ramparts of chalk falling in stark abruptness 
from the luminous softness on their summits to the 
yeast of the breaker boiling at their base. There are 
some parts of the coast which a man might well have 
need to look at twice before venturing to give a name to 
them. Inland there will be scarce a snow-picture that is 
not of dainty grace and tender elegance. The trees 



214 SEASIDE EFFECTS. 

droop under their burden of white blossoms, the meanest 
little hovel grows in a night into a fairy fabric, an aspect 
of pensive romance comes upon the land with the no* se- 
less, floating falls of the glistening feathers ; but as the 
coast is approached the sentiment of the picture takes 
a certain note of wildness, and manifold as is the 
beauty of the scene, the inland spirit of gentleness has 
vanished. 

There is, indeed, no finer picture imaginable than 
that of a line of snow-clad cliff, washed by the dark 
green of the winter sea, with brows and peaks showing 
ghastly as the light of foam on a moonless night against 
the dingy sky beyond. Its perfections offer best to the 
distant eye. The familiar steals out to the approach, 
but from afar even the well-known points might pass for 
atmospheric phantasies. It is the only fit perspective 
for the wintry scene of sullen waters and dark clouds 
blowing into whiteness as they discharge their storms of 
snow upon the bleak north-easterly blast. The sands 
stretch brown and hard to the curl of the olive-coloured 
surge ; the salt of them melts the snow quickly, and 
what that leaves unfinished the crawling of the tide or 
the headlong flash of the breaker completes. The wheel 
of the sun is so low on the horizon that it looks as if it 
would run foul of the tall mastheads of the great ship 
yonder, which is rolling along her homeward course over 
the short bounds of the sea, with the whole weight of the 
German Ocean in every fling. It is difficult at such a 
time to conceive that summer will ever visit these cold, 
white, silent dominions again. The memory of children 
sporting in the silver of the warm surf, with the high 
sun showering a golden sparkling upon the soft, yellow 
sand, is as a recurrence to another form of life altogether 
as one stands upon the shore, following the cold, bald 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 215 

streaks of the snow-covered cliffs to where they vanish 
in pearly blobs and misty films upon the sharp, grey 
line of the restless waters, and listening to the harsh 
cry of a gull sailing low directly overhead, and to the 
multitudinous hissing of the sea racing in an endless 
procession of breakers, bursting with blasts of noise 
against the resonant cliffs, or darting aloft in pillars of 
froth from the sides of the half-tide rocks. 

There is nothing in sunlight or in moonshine to 
qualify in the picture of a winter coast the element of 
wildness that forms at once its spirit and its beauty. 
There is no feature or incident of it that does not serve 
to accentuate this quality. From the late hour of the 
pink flashing of the east to the early hour of the stormy 
crimsoning of the west, and on yet through the night, 
whether black with the shadow of flying cloudtf or serene 
and radiant to the icy shining of the planet, there are 
scores of things to gaze upon, to find delight in, and 
many to marvel at. Indeed, there is nothing in the 
summer scene to compare with the winter show of our 
English seaboard. There is peace in the blue heavens 
and azure complexion of the hot holiday months, but 
none now. The ocean may rest as motionless as a sheet 
of glass, without a heave of swell or stir of ripple to 
distort for a breath the flakes of starlight that float 
upon her breast in tiny shafts of silver ; there may not 
be a sound to break the air save the indescribable com- 
plaining noise which steals upon the ear, vague as a 
half-remembered fancy, from the sliding creep of the 
unfurrowed tide upon the beach. Nothing may be 
stirring, unless it be the black outline of some little 
craft stemming to the impulse of her oars down the 
white path of moonlight upon the water, and slightly 
swaying as she comes as though she were a fan noise- 



216 SEASIDE EFFECTS. 

lessly vibrated by some hand hidden beneath the surface. 
Every element of peace seems to be in such a scene as 
this, yet somehow the true spirit of repose is wanting. 
The mind is troubled by a sense of conflict, the hush 
along the white spectral line of coast is scarcely less 
defiant than would be the noise of the thunder of 
breakers spurned by its iron foot. The rarity of thft 
still moonlight night upon the sea coasts in winter 
makes one think of the placid picture as a touch above 
nature. It is beautiful, but its wildness is preternatural, 
beyond the inspiration of the fierce gale and the sight of 
the small green moon flying like a silver cannon-ball 
from the edge of one dark flying shadow to another. 
Old winter has a knack of breathing hard even when he 
slumbers, and one is commonly right in suspecting a 
malicious * device when he hides his hoary beard and 
holds his icy breath, and postures to the eye, though 
not to the flesh, as a summer month. It is well to steal 
a glance at the barometer at such a time. We shall 
hear him groanmg in the chimney anon. It will not be 
long before his sharp talons are making a drum of every 
window casement in the house. His roars of laughter 
will be heard running in thunderous echoes along those 
silent ranges which, throughout the period of his stillness, 
have been standing silent, watchful, and ever defiant 
of his approach. In truth, old winter makes but an 
ill mummer. He may rend his garment of cloud and 
cast it aside, set the moon as a jewel in the middle of 
his forehead, adorn his bald pate with stars, and clothe 
his formidable figure with the beauty of a still clear 
night ; but, in spite of his waggery, we shall know him, 
as Falstaff was known, by his beard: and, after a 
pleasant survey of his ingenious make-up, turn our 
backs upon him without the least doubt that in a very 



SEASIDE EFFECTS. 217 

short time he. will have flung his summer trappings 
away, and be making the cold white cliffs ring again 
with his terrible mirth. 

If, however, winter be treacherous, he is also very 
lavish. His panoramas are spacious, and many of 
them magnificent. He will often, indeed, shroud the 
ocean and the coast in fog and in flying snow for days ; 
but again and again the curtain is lifted, with such 
prodigality of presentment behind, that the mind will 
sometimes be bewildered by the splendid profusion. 
There will be a dozen different effects of sky scenery in 
an hour: the rolling cloud surcharged with its own 
weight bending its ashen burden to the very crests of 
the leaping billows; a slow passage of storm of snow 
looking to boil and whirl like volumes of steam as it 
blows past, and eclipses the wet and slanting beam of 
pale sunshine that has darted lance-like through some 
green drift amid the moving bodies of vapour; the 
weeping shadow over the land gliding onwards, with a 
perpetual emergence of the flashing snow-streak from 
its trailing skirts until the whole bright line lies exposed, 
the whiter, as it would seem, for the cleansing fingers 
of mist which have passed along it. The winter's breath 
sharpens and clarifies colour and outline. There are 
days in high gales often when the atmosphere is so 
brilliantly clear that the lenses of the telescope scarcely 
assist the naked eye in defining the tints and shapes of 
distant objects. A sharper glare appears in the break 
of the foam and in the scattering of spray than is ever 
to be seen in summer. Thousands know the sea coast 
only when the sun stands high, and when the roses are 
in bloom and the hedgerows leafy. To such as these 
the spectacle of the winter coast would furnish a memory 
well worth preserving. The delight might not indeed 



218 SEASIDE EFFECTS. 

linger. Life would undoubtedly bore them after a little, 
but the novelty of the scene would repay the trouble of 
taking a glimpse of it. Indeed, by most it would be 
thought the fairer and the more engaging for lacking 
almost every element which entices people to the coast 
in summer-time. The donkey is at rest^ the voice of 
the showman is hushed, the bathing-machine stands 
high and dry. Nothing seems to survive the entertain- 
ments of the summer, but the bath-chair. On the 
other hand, the breakers are bursting upon the beach 
with voices they are never known to utter at any other 
time of the year. The white ramparts of the seaboard 
look grandly down upon the dark green ocean that rolls 
at their feet. The snow beautifies the land ; but even 
to the humblest scenery of the coast it will give au 
aspect that falls little short of grandeur. 



AN OCEAN MYSTERY. 

It had been a sort of brooding day since dawn ; thick, 
heavy, oppressive, with a light breeze that was like 
steam for warmth and damp, and a very quiet surface of 
ocean. Not so much as the head of a cloud had shown 
anywhere ; yet the sky was as dingy as the atmospheric 
thickness could make it, with the sun in the midst of 
it like a red-hot warming-pan, and a wake under him in 
the thick and sluggish water that might have passed 
for drippings of blazing oil slowly settling. At sundown, 
when the shadows entered this weather, it fell pitch dark. 
No man aboard the ship that lay motionless in the heart 
of it ever remembered a deeper blackness. There could 
have been nothing in the most stooping and lowering 
of electric storms to fling a more ebony complexion upon 
the deep than the night air now held. The wind, too, 
died out when the evening came down, and the vessel 
that had been slowly rippling through it all day was 
brought to a dead stand, with scarce heave enough in 
her frame to put life into the up-and-down canvas. 

The ship was a few degrees south of the equator, an 
old-fashioned cargo vessel, outward bound to an Australian 
port, with a purple-faced old Poplar man for a com- 
mander. The round-shanked chap, coming on deck 
after a brief spell below, in company with a bottle of 
whiskey, stood a minute or two in the companion-way 



220 AN OCEAN MTSTEBY. 

staring blindly against the blackness ; then, after a little, 
groped over to the mate, one side of whose figure was 
just visible as he stood between the binnacle and the 
wheel, by the sheen of the light there touching it. 

" Well, well," he exclaimed, sniffing up at the air 
as though he would smell what he was unable to see ; 
" how is this to end now d'ye think, Mr. Jones ? Glass 
stands high too. A man might marry a negress in this 
night, and not know her for a side of bacon, let alone 
the colour. Gor' bless me, colour ! Why, you might 
make a hole in this darkness to lie down in." 

He took a view of the compass-card, heard what the 
mate had to say on the subject of the weather, and, after 
smoking a pipe, repaired below for a second dram, telling 
the mate that he would take forty winks on one of the 
cabin lockers, and that he was to be at once called if 
there came a change, no matter what form it might take. 
The mate watched the crimson-faced old gentleman mix 
himself a " second mate's nip " — he was plain in view 
through the open skylight — and then the worthy skipper 
stretched his fat figure along a locker, and his snoring 
presently arose into the darkness with a sound like to 
the rushing of water up and down a beach of shingle. 

The man at the wheel nodded ; there was scarce a 
stir in the tiller chains ; no twitch of the spokes to hint 
to the fellow to keep his head up. Forward in the black- 
ness the stillness was that of a coffin. In what corners 
the watch on deck had coiled their bodies away no man 
could have imagined. The mate paced the deck slowly, 
often coming to a stand at the rail, lost in wonder at the 
phenomenal stillness out upon the black shadow of the 
ocean. There was something soul-subduing in a night 
of such darkness and stillness as this. It made one walk 
lightly, as though there were a listening spirit in the 



AN OCEAN MYSTERY, 221 

air to be vexed by the rude creak of a boot. It was a 
time to speak only in whispers, as you'd notice when at 
long intervals the mate addressed the fellow who was at 
the wheel, sounding his inquiry but a little above his 
breath. 

This went on till about eleven o'clock, ship, ocean, 
and sky blended yet into one impenetrable shadow, 
charged with the mighty pulseless pause, as though the 
night, with sucked-in breath, hung motionless in expec- 
tation. 

" Hark ! Did you hear that ? " cried the mate, sud- 
denly whipping out shrill with the amazement that was 
in him. 

'* Ay, sir," answered the man at the helm, in a broad- 
awake voice. " There it is again." 

It was a sound of laughter out on the water off the 
starboard bow ; whether human or not was scarcely to 
be guessed. The blackness, and then the great ocean 
solitude out of which it rang, would have put a wild 
unearthliness into it, even had it been melodious as a 
girl's laugh; but there was an edge in it that owed 
nothing to the mystery of the night — an indescribable 
animal-like harshness, a semblance of human merriment 
shocking by reason of its mirthlessness and a note run- 
ning through it as of the mixed crying of the jackal and 
the hyena. 

** Smite me if it didn't sound like some swimming 
baboon a-hailing of us," cried the helmsman. 

** Swimming baboon in your eye," answered the mate. 
" Some drowned man's ghost, more like, fooling round, 
maybe, in hope of being laid by a drink." 

The laugh again sounded, a sort of unearthly carous- 
ing hallooing, like the meaningless bawling of some 

drunken rascal staggering home in the small hours. 
15 



222 AN OCEAN MYSTEJIY. 

** What the deuce is it ? " said the mate. 

*' Ain't that a winking of fire out there where the 
noise is, sir ? '* said the helmsman. 

The mate peered. ** Ay, sure enough," said he ; 
*' what is it now ? It looks like the sheen of phosphorus 
to the dipping of an oar. Listen ! ** 

They both bent their ears. The long, demoniacal, 
blood-chilling laugh came floating off the water to the 
ship, and then a man cried out suddenly, in the black- 
ness forward, " There's some one hailing of us ! " 

The mate put his head into the skylight and sang 
out to the skipper, who rolled off the locker and came 
on deck. By this time the watch, disturbed in their nap, 
had uncoiled themselves, and were at the rail. Every 
man was invisible to his fellow, close together as the 
sailors hung, but the darkness did not hinder them from 
speaking, and their voices rose in a sort of grumble, 
hoarse with wonder, not unmixed with apprehension. 

'* What is it, Mr. Jones ? " asked the captain. 

" There's some one out on the water yonder, laugh- 
ing," answered the mate, ** listen, sir — now you have it." 

It could scarcely be any longer doubted that the 
sounds were uttered by a human being. It was a man's 
lunatic laughter, a senseless howling counterfeit of mirth, 
and this time it was followed on by an articulate cry, 
though the feUow was too far off to be intelligible. 

** Why, yes; sure enough," cried the captain, "there's 
some one out there ; but what the deuce is he finding to 
laugh at, and what's his craft ? " 

He raised his voice. 

" Anybody make out what that chap yonder's afloat 
in?" 

"He's heading for us," exclaimed one of the men, 
"his woice has growed as clear ag'in since first heard." 



AN OCEAN MYSTERY. 223 

''It'll be a boat, I allow/' exclaimed another man; 
** fancy I beerd the grind of an oar in thole pins just 
now, and there's a flash of water at times." 

For some minutes there was a dead stillness, while 
the mate, taking the lamp out of the binnacle, held it 
steady over the rail. Indeed, it looked as though the 
sight of the lamp had silenced the fellow. There was 
nothing to be seen ; stare as the men might, they could 
witness nothing distinguishable in the ink-like void into 
which their gaze sank blindly, saving the occasional 
sparkling of fiery water to what was unquestionably the 
stealthy plying of an oar. Presently the old skipper 
roared out, "Boat, ahoy! what boat's that?" His 
voice was echoed in the motionless hidden canvas on 
high ; but no answer was returned from the sea. There 
was another interval of dead stillness, with a faint 
sound now and again which suggested that the boat was 
being very softly and sneakingly sculled. Certainly the 
scintillation of the oar had vanished, and there was 
nothing to intimate the existence of the boat saving the 
sculling sound. 

" Confoundedly wonderful all this ! " gasped the 
skipper, in a voice of intense excitement, puffing and 
blowing with the heat and with the amazement he was 

full of. 

As he said this a peal of mirthless laughter broke 
from the water, apparently within pistol-shot of the ship's 

side. 

''Ha! ha! ha! Show a light there. Ha! ha! ha! 
I'm Saint Anthony. Hurrah ! boys. Saint Anthony 
in tow of a pig, by the living thunder ! He's brought 
me a thousand leagues. Hurrah! hurrah! Ha! ha! 

ha ! " 

The dreadful laugh died out. 



224 AN OCEAN MYSTERY, 

"There's only one way of dealing with this," cried 
the mate. 

He dived into the cabin, was absent a minute, and 
then returned with a port-fire, which he exploded over 
the side. Out gushed the fountain of green fiame, tinc- 
turing a broad area of the water with a frightful radiance, 
and flashing up within biscuit-toss the shape of what 
was apparently a ship's quarter-boat, black, with the 
tall, seemingly half-naked figure of a man erect on a 
midship thwart, with both hands held high, in the 
posture of one who leaps as he falls v^ith a shot in his 
heart. It was a picture not to be expressed in writing ; 
the wild colouring of the port-fire made an unimaginable 
vision of it ; and then again there was the sudden ghastly 
brightening out of the wild sight from the black canvas 
in which it had lain buried. 

*' Saint Anthony, I tell ye, men ! Saint Anthony, 
ha, ha, ha ! " cried the half-nude creature, flourishing 
his arms as if in ecstasy at the sight of the green spout 
of flame. **Ho! 'tis a good thing to be a saint, though! 
Alone, alone — alone, alone ! I'm the Sovereign of the 
Seas, and Saint Anthony too. Hurrah, boys. Ha ! ha ! 
ha!" 

The port-fire went out, and the blackness rolled down 
again dark upon the dazzle in the men's eyes. 

** A mad sailor, sir," cried the mate , " some ship- 
wrecked survivor with his brain gone. Great God ! how 
horrible." 

"Lord, if one could but see!" exclaimed the captain; 
" we must have him aboard, though. Aft here, some of 
you; get a boat lowered, and secure that poor fellow." 

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! " sounded out of the darkness. " I'm 
monarch of the night, I tell ye. I'm Saint Anthony, too, 
my livelies. Hurrah ! Nor'-nor' west ; that's the course, 



AN OCEAN MYSTERY. 225 

boys. Ha ! ha ! ha I " and the flash of water, accom- 
panied by a grinding sound, intimated that the nnhappy 
creature was sculling away from the ship. 

The sailors came tumbling aft, and, despite the black- 
ness, in a few minutes a boat was in the water with four 
men in her, and the chief mate in the stern sheets grop- 
ing to hang the rudder. ** Shove off— give way 1 ** At 
the same moment a large globular lantern was run aloft 
by the signal halliards to the mizen peak, and other 
lights held along the ship's side. The moment the water 
was flashed up by the four oars of the men the madman, 
if such, indeed, he were, broke into a long mocking 
laugh, and then fell silent whilst he sculled with might 
and main. His fifty fathoms' start would give him but 
a poor chance against four men. The boat swept up 
to him rapidly, guided by the sparkling of the water 
about his oar, but on a sudden this brilliance vanished ; 
they could hear the oar flung furiously down, followed 
by a derisive yell, that came to the pursuers' ears with 
the shock and fear of a shriek of anguish, and by the 
splash of the fellow's body as he flung himself over- 
board. 

" 'Vast rowing ! " 

The boat floated to the other, the five men holding 
their breath whilst they sent their glances over the black 
profound in search of a single scintillation to indicate 
the whereabouts of the man drowning or swimming ; but 
no break of light was anywhere visible. They softly 
rowed here and there, and then, catching hold of the 
boat, they towed her to the ship's side, and made her 
fast for examination by daybreak. 

By the morning's light the captain and mate ex- 
amined her and found her an ordinary ship's boat with 
the name, Martha WiUianis, painted in small black letters 



226 AN OCEAN MYSTERY. 

on her stem ; a Scotch cap, a sailor's shirt and jacket, 
a belt, and sheath knife were found in her, also an 
empty breaker, dry and resonant with the heat, and 
the half of a ship's biscuit, mouldy and vermin-eaten. 
It was afterwards ascertained that the Martha Williams 
was a missing ship, and supposed to have foundered on 
a voyage to the Thames from Callao* 



THE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONG. 

Thebe are two kinds of sea-songs, those which are sung 
at concerts and in drawing-rooms, and sometimes, but 
not very often, at sea, and those which are never heard 
off shipboard. The latter have obtained, in this age, 
the name of " chanty," a term which I do not recollect 
ever having heard when I was following the life. It is 
obviously manufactured out of the French verb, and 
there is a longshore twang about it which cannot sound 
very relishably upon the elderly nautical ear. This sort 
of song is designed to lighten and assist the sailor's toil. 
It is an air that enables a number of men pulling upon 
a rope to regulate their combined exertions. It is also 
a song for sailors to sing as they tramp round a capstan 
and heave upon a windlass. Of the melodies of many 
of them it is difficult to trace the paternity. Some are 
so engaging that they might well be regarded as the 
compositions of musicians of genius, who wrote them 
with little suspicion of the final uses to which they 
would be put. Why their destination, having been sung 
perhaps at the harpsichord and the guitar by ladies 
and gentlemen, should be the forecastle; why being 
appropriated by the sailor they should be so peculiarly 
his, that no one else ever dreams of singing them, there 
is no use in attempting to guess. The reader will not 
require me to tell him that the marine working songs 



228 THE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONQ. 

are to be heard only in the Merchant Service. In a 
ship of war the uproar caused by the hoarse bawling 
of half a dozen gangs of men scattered about the decks 
would be intolerable, nor could the working song be of 
service to the blue-jacket, who is quite numerous enough 
to manage without it. It was always so, indeed; a 
frigate getting under weigh would flash into canvas in 
a breath ; sails were sheeted home, yards hoisted, jibs 
and staysails run up, and the anchor tripped as though 
the complicated mechanism were influenced by a single 
controlling power producing simultaneously a hundred 
different effects. There were men enough to do every- 
thing, and all at once ; but the ship's comj)any of the 
merchantman was always too few for her. A mercantile 
sailor is expected to do the work of two, and at a pinch 
of three, and even four. When one job is done he has 
to spring to another. There are ** stations" indeed in 
such manoeuvres as tacking or wearing ; but when, for 
instance, it comes to shortening sail in a hurry, or when 
the necessity arises for a sudden call for all hands, the 
merchant sailor lays hold of the first rope it is necessary 
to drag on, and when he has ** belayed " it, he is ex- 
pected to fling himself upon the next rope that has to 
be pulled. Here we have the secret of the usefulness 
of the working song. Let the words be what they will, 
the melody animates the seaman with spirit and he pulls 
with a will ; it helps him to keep time too, so that not so 
much as an ounce of the united weight of the hauling 
and bawling fellows misses of its use on the tackle they 
drag at. I have known seamen at work on some job 
that required a deal of heavy and sustained pulling, to 
labour as if all heart had gone out of them whilst one 
of the gang tried song after song ; the mate meanwhile 
standing by and encouraging them with the familiar 



TEE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONG. 229 

official rhetoric ; till on a sudden an air has been struck 
up that acted as if by magic. The men not only found 
their own strength, every fellow became as good as two. 
This, I believe, will be the experience of most merchant 
sailors. 

There are tunes to fit every kind of work on board 
ship ; short cheerful melodies for jobs soon accom- 
plished or over which a captain would not allow time 
to be wasted in singing (for I am bound to say that 
the disposition of a sailor is to make a very great deal 
of song go to the smallest possible amount of pull), 
such as hauling out a bowline, mastheading one of the 
lighter yards, or boarding a tack. Other working 
choruses, again, are as long as a ship's cable. These' 

\ are sung at the capstan or at the windlass, when the 

intervals between the starting of the solo and the 
coming in of the chorus do not hinder the work an 

' instant. It would be interesting to know when and by 

whom the working song was first introduced into the 
British Merchant Service. In old books of voyages no 
reference whatever is made to it. There is not a sen- 
tence in the collections from Hakluyt down to Burney 
to indicate that when the early sailors pushed at hand- 
spikes or dragged upon the rigging they animated their 
labours with songs and choruses. I have some ac- 
quaintance with the volumes of Shelvocke, Funnell, and 
other marine writers of the last century, but though 
many of them, such as Kingrose, Dampier, Cooke, 
Snelgrave, and particularly Woodes Kogers, enter very 
closely into the details of the shipboard work of their 
time, they are to a man silent on this question of sing- 
ing. It is for this reason that I would attribute the 
origin of the practice to the Americans. If most of the 
forecastle melodies still current at sea be not the compo* 



230 THE OLD NAVAL SEA^SONG. 

sition of Yankees, the words, at all events, are suflS- 
ciently tinctured by American sentiment to render my 
conjecture plausible. The titles of many of these work- 
ing songs have a strong flavour of Boston and New York 
about them. "Across the Western Ocean," "The Plains 
of Mexico,'* " Eun, let the BuUjine run ! " " Bound to 
the Kio Grande,*' these and many more which I cannot 
immediately recollect betray to my mind a trans-Atlantic 
inspiration. " Heave to the Girls," " Cheerly, Men,'* 
"A dandy ship and a dandy crew," " Tally hi ho ! You 
know," ''Hurrah! hurrah! my hearty bullies," and 
scores more of a like kind, all of them working songs 
never to be heard ofif the decks of a ship, are racy in air 
and words of the soil of the States. 

The other kind of songs — the songs of Charles and 
Thomas Dibdin, Shield, Arnold, Henry Eussell, Ame, 
Boyce, etc., are of a very different order. The working 
song is often at best but little more than unintelligible 
doggerel. It is the sailor's trick to improvise as he 
goes along, and rhyme and reason are entirely subordi- 
nate to the obligation of shouting out something. But 
the sea-song, as landsmen understand the term, is 
accepted as a composition of meaning and even of 
poetry. At long intervals it is so. There is no lyric in 
the English language comparable to " Ye Mariners of 
England," and "The Battle of the Baltic." "Cease, 
rude Boreas," again, commonly attributed to George 
Alexander Stevens, though I believe it was written by 
William Falconer, the author of " The Shipwreck," is a 
fine stirring poem, full of sailors' weather and salt spray 
and the thunder of the gale. But the average British 
sea-song, whether old or new, ranks low as a sample of 
poetry. Dibdin is happiest when he is least technical. 
There is a pathos in " Tom Bowling " that needs not the 



THE OLD NAVAL SEA- SONG. 231 

accentuation of its exquisite air to appeal to us. But 
when he is particularly nautical every sailor will, I 
thinky admit that he is very much at sea indeed. One 
reason why the landsman's nautical song finds but little 
favour among mariners is, I think, because he is seldom 
successful in catching the true maritime spirit and 
flavour. It is idle to write about wet sheets and flowing 
seas unless you know what they mean. A man must 
serve a long apprenticeship to the ocean to master the 
shades and significations of the nomenclature of the 
marine ; and he must serve for a longer period yet to 
gather the import of the subtle professional intellectual 
conditions which go to the creation of the sea mind. 
The employment of marine technicalities by a poet to 
whom they are unintelligible, may result in what looks 
like a sea-song, but no true sailor will ever care to sing 
it ; nor will the bard find himself better recommended 
to the seaman by references to what, even in this age, is 
accepted as the traditional character of the tar. Another 
reason why Jack does not take kindly to the landsman's 
sea-songs is perhaps he gets so much of the ocean in 
fact, that he wants no more of it in fiction. A true 
thing he will relish, and sing, and talk of, no matter 
how deep in the heart of the country it was produced, 
nor how pastoral the genius of its author ; but he turns 
wearily from descriptions of gallant ships and rustling 
sails, of dripping prows and boatswains' calls, of 
carousals on shore, of sweethearts and wives, of Billy 
Crosstree and Tommy Marlinespike. My own experi- 
ence is that sailors when they get a chance to sing at 
sea choose the current sentimental ditties of the theatre 
and the music hall. I dare say that " Two Lovely Black 
Eyes " is sung now on the ocean by men who never 
heard of " Tom Tough " or '* All in the Downs." Dana's 



233 THE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONG. 

old seaman of 1834 was true of my time — ^twenty years 
ago ; and doubtless he would stand as a type of scores 
of mariners yet living : " I never shall forget/' he says, 
"hearing an old salt who had broken his voice by hard 
drinking on shore, and bellowing from the masthead in 
a hundred north-westers, singing — with all manner of un- 
governable trills and quavers, in the high notes breaking 
into a rough falsetto, and in the low ones growling along 
like the dying away of the boatswain's * All hands ahoy ' 
down the hatchway — *0h no, we never mention him' — 

" * Perhaps Uke me he struggles with 
Each feeling of regret : 
But if he's loved as I have loved 
He never can forget I * " 

The last line he roared out at the top of his voice, 
breaking each word into a half a dozen syllables. This 
was very popular, and Jack was called on every night to 
give them his sentimental song. No one called for it 
more loudly than I, for the complete absurdity of the 
execution and the sailor's perfect satisfaction in it were 
ludicrous beyond measure." 

"When I went to sea as a little midshipman, having 
some small ear for music, though I did not then and 
still do not, know my notes, I took with me a sort of 
accordion that had keys like a pianoforte, and this I 
would carry on to the forecastle on a fine quiet evening 
and play to the men and accompany them in their 
singing, and I took notice that the songs they liked best, 
indeed they cared for no others, were of the strictly 
sentimental kind, such as, "Ever of thee," "Here's a 
fair good night to thee, love," "I'd be a butterfly," and 
60 on. We may take it I think that the decline of the 
popularity at sea of the Dibdin school of song is due to 
the long peace which this country has enjoyed, or at all 



THE OLD NAVAL SEASONO. 233 

events to the long intervals "which have elapsed between 
naval engagements since Waterloo. Prior to that de- 
cisive action the country was almost incessantly at war. 
Our home waters were covered with British cruisers, 
and reports of single and general actions were arriving 
weekly, I had almost said daily, from half the oceans 
of the globe. The pig-tailed mariner was a great hero 
then. The Incledons and Brahams were warbling his 
praises in very pretty music. Much was made of his 
saucy frigate, of the towering liner and the little ten- 
gun "pelter,** of Hawke and Howe and Keppel; and 
much too of Mounseer's cowardice. But when those 
war-times came to an end there was little left in the 
shape of maritime marvels for the contemporary bard 
to express in verse. Algiers, Navarino, and so down to 
the Crimea, were too brief for inspiration. The tradi- 
tional feats grew obscure in the haze of time, and Jack 
got tired of the old rollicking celebrations. Steam and 
iron confirmed the indifference induced by spells of 
inactivity. Further, the old portraits ceased to resemble 
the modem sailor. The pigtail had been hove overboard ; 
wooden legs were no longer plentiful ; coflfee and cocoa 
were replacing the can of grog. Outside the old 
machinery of moonlight and shivering topsails, there 
was nothing definite to write about. Indeed, long before 
the Crimean war. Jack had revolted against all attempts 
to represent him as a lion-hearted man with a face 
discoloured by grog-pimples, a hat jauntily fixed upon 
*'nine hairs," and feet squeezed into little dancing 
pumps ; and since he could not procure anything written 
about himself that was worth singing, he addressed his 
mind to ditties in which no reference whatever was made 
to his calling. 

But throughout the last century, and during the 



234 THE OLD NAVAL SEA SONG. 

first fifteen or twenty years of this, the sea-song was 
popular, in proportion as the words were good and the 
music brisk, with our fighting crews, and the old wooden 
fabrics resounded the thunder of lungs of hurricane 
power roaring out choruses glorifying Britannia's might 
and the heroism of the hardy salts. The creation of 
this type of ocean ballad is intimately associated with 
the honoured name of Charles Dibdin ; but there were 
other writers before him, the originators of a school of 
which he is the most illustrious example, whose com- 
positions, there is every reason to believe, proved as 
heartening and as animating in their day as^ ever did 
the best of poor Tom Bowling's in his. It is a literature 
hard to get at. Only the very choicest specimens have 
been suffered to survive in the existing collections. 
Nearly all the sea-songs included in the lists I have 
examined are by Dibdin or his contemporaries. Some 
excellent examples, such as, " All's Well," " The Snug 
Little Island," ** When Vulcan forged the bolts of Jove," 
were the productions of Dibdin's son. I doubt not there 
are many nautical ballads of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries to be met with by any one with 
sufficient leisure and diligence to engage in such a search. 
A collection of the kind would usefully supplement our 
naval histories, and prove a work of enduring interest 
to the country at large, and more particularly to the 
British marine. There is, indeed, something peculiarly 
engaging in the nautical lyric in which a contempo- 
raneous hand has celebrated the mighty deeds of the 
bold admiral or captain of a hundred or two hundred 
years ago. It is a sort of rough verse to transform 
the past into an arras; the imagination quickens the 
figures and the whole tapestry glows into life upon the 
vision of the mind. The old ship rises before us straining 



THE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONG, 235 

at her hempen cables or rolling and plunging to the gale 
under canvas the fashion of whose cut is as dead and 
gone as the names by which they were known. You see 
her castellated stern, her black or yellow sides bristling 
with guns under the deep waist, and the many quaint- 
nesses of her apparel of sails and streamers. The 
admiral, with a face like the north-west moon, clad in 
the attire of the sea-brave of the Stuarts or of the first 
George, stumps the poop-royal, with a perspective-glass 
under his arm, watching the chase ahead, a squadron of 
flying Frenchmen, or Dutchmen, or Spaniards, occa- 
sionally sending a glance over the quarter where his 
consorts of the Union Jack are frothing and rolling 
along in a huddle of dingy canvas. I never read the 
song called ** Admiral Benbow," without the vision rising 
before me of the whole of that sea dog's stern and 
melancholy business with Du Casse. There is not a 
line of description in it, of the kind, I mean, to help the 
imagination ; nevertheless the verse has a magic of its 
own, every sentence conjures up a radiant canvas : — 

"ADMIEAL BENBOW. 

<* Come aU ye sailors bold, 

Lend an ear, lend an ear ; 
Gome, all ye sailors bold, 

Lend an ear. 
It*s of our admiral's fame, 
Brave Bcnbow caird by name, 
How he fought upon the main, 

You shall hear, you shall hear. 

*' Brave Bcnbow he set sail. 
For to fight, for to fight; 
Brave Benbow he set sail. 
For to fight. 



286 TBE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONG. 

Braye Benbow he set sail, 
With a fine and pleasant gale, 
But his captains they turn'd tail, 
In a fright, in a fright 

" Says Kirby unto Hood, 
*I will run, I will run ; ' 
Says Kirby unto Hood, 

• I will run. 

I value not disgrace, 
Nor the losing of my place, 
My enemies 1*11 not face. 
With a gun, with a guu.' 

'Twas the Ituby and Noah^s Ark, 
Taught the French, taught the French; 

'Twas the liuhy and Noah*8 Ark, 
Taught the French. 

And there was ten in all. 

Poor souls, they fought them all, 

They valu*d them not at all. 
Nor their noise, nor their noise. 

" Unfortunate it was. 

By chain shot, by chain shot ; 
Unfortunate it was. 

By chain shot. 
Our admiral lost his legs, 
Unto his men he begs : 
« Fight on, brave boys,' he says, 

• 'Tis my lot, 'tis my lot.' " 

There is a true ocean swing in this rhythm. Over 
many a steaming bowl, by the light of many an 
oscillating slush lamp, and to the wagging of more pig- 
tails than I should like to count, have these stirring 
verses been roared out. Poor Benbow loses his legs. 
** 'Tis my lot, 'tis my lot ! " he says, and the poet 
proceeds : — 

*' While the surgeon dressM his wound, 
How he cried, how he cried ; 
W^hile the surgeon dress'd his wound, 
How he cried. 



THE OLD NAVAL SEA^SONG. 237 

' Let my cradle now in haste 
On the qnarter-deck be placM, 
That my enemies I may face 
Till rm dead, till I'm dead.' 

" And there brave Benbow lay, 

Crying out, crying out; 
And there brave Benbow lay, 

Crying out, boys, 
* T^et us tack about once more, 
We'll drive them to their shore, 
We value not half a score. 

Nor their noise, nor their noise I ' " 

Benbow was one of those seamen about whom the 
English sailor of his and of succeeding days could 
never weary of singing. " Sir/' wrote Du Gasse to him, 
" I had little hopes, on Monday last, but to have supp'd 
in your cabbin ; but it pleased God to order it otherwise. 
I am thankful for it. As for those cowardly captains 
who deserted you, hang them up, for, by , they 

■ 

deserve it ! " The old Jacks used to sing another fine 
song about him : — 

•* Oh, we sailed lo Virginia, 

And from thence to Fial ; 
Oh, we water'd our shipping, 

And so we weighed all : 
Being in view of the sea, boys. 

Seven sail we did espy ; 
Oh, we ]ioi8ted our topsails, 

And sailed speedily." 

The recurrent " Oh ! " in the seven verses which form 
the song is what Tom Cringle would call exceedingly 
fine. It expresses the prefatory howl with which Jack 
delights to regale his hearers before plunging into the 
substance of the music and the verse : — 

•* Oh, we drew up our squadron 
In a very nice line. 
And wo fought them courageously 
For near four hours' time ; 
16 



238 THE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONG. 

But the day being spent, 

And the night coming on, 
Oh, we let them alone 

Until the next mom." 

The poet's enthusiasm, however, hurries him into a little 
blunder : — 

** Oh, the very next morning 

By the break of the day, 
Oh, we hoisted our topsails. 

And so we bore away ; 
We bore down to Port Royal, 

Where the people flocked much, 
To see brave Admiral Benbow 

Carried to Kingbton Town Church." 

From this it might be inferred that the admiral died at 
sea and was buried at Port Boyal ; the truth being that 
he lived nearly a month after the arrival of his ship at 
Jamaica. Sometimes, but not very often, the old sea- 
song writer was sarcastic. The school of Dibdin was 
full of enthusiasm. Everything English is above praise, 
everything French beneath contempt. Marryat, whose 
sea-lyrics, all admirable of their kind, though they have 
the uncommon fault of being too few, hinted to the 
country in swinging verse that it was not impossible for 
a British naval captain to be neither a hero nor a gentle- 
man. But, then, to be sure, Marryat wrote in compara- 
tively peaceful times, when the perpetuation of the 
drunken, swaggering, roaring patriotism of the Dibdinite 
mariner could serve no immediate end. There were 
poets, however, long previous to Marryat, much earlier 
indeed than Dibdin, who could forget their warlike 
enthusiasm sufficiently to tell a saucy truth in a frisky 
stanza or two. In a word, they could find stomach 
enough for the assumption of a satirical countenance. 



TEE OLD NAVAL SEASONQ. 239 

Here is a stroke in this way, and few songs of the kind 
were ever more heartily sung : 

BOLD BENJAMIN. 

<* Captain Edwards is gone to sea, 
High sir, ho sir, 
With a jovial ship*s company, 
.On board the Bold Benjamin, O, 

' He carried out five hundred men, 

High sir, ho sir. 
And brought home but thirty-one. 

On board the Bold Benjamin, O. 

" When they came to Black wall. 
High sir, ho sir, 
Men, women, and children all 
Aloud did they call, 
* Hero comes the Bold Benjamin, O.' 

" There was mothers weeping for their sons, 
High sir, ho sir. 
Widows for loss of husbands, 
On board the Bold Benjamin, O." 

A song about Admiral Byng is less covert. The poet 
could plead justification, and wrote as if he knew that 
he had the world with him. It would seem that this 
amiable composition was published whilst Byng was 
awaiting his trial. I have only space to quote the last 
verse : — 

** For behaving so well on the ocean, 
At least he deserves a string, 
And if he should sue for promotion, 
I hope they will give him his swing. 
Swing, swing, rare Admiral BifngJ* 

This song seems to have been a bid for the popularity 
of the tavern rather than for that of the forecastle. 
There is no flavour of the sea in it. Moreover, it is not 
probable that the sailor would take very kindly to a 
ditty that represented his flag as disgraced. It is the 



240 TUE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONG. 

custom to speak of Dibdin as the originator of the 
heave-ho, rum-coloured, grog-soaked, lively hearty, who 
on stepping ashore from his frigate, which has just 
arrived with a rich prize in tow, instantly flies to Nancy 
and the bowl. To those who have not carried their 
inquiries in this direction further than Dibdin, there is, 
indeed, quite enough of drink and of grinning through 
horse-collars in his compositions to justify the notion 
that the jovial reeling salt found his earliest metrical 
and melodious interpretation in the works of his com- 
poser. The drink to be discovered in Dibdin's songs 
would m«ke a sea large enough for several combined 
fleets of that age to have floated on. The sailor had 
nothing to do but to sing in all weathers, beat the 
French, and drink the "swizzy." Inspired by the 
wishes of Mr. Pitt, it was Dibdin's business to paint 
the sea-life in captivating colours. His "properties" 
were not numerous: lovely Sue, the jorum of grog, 
pockets full of prize money, the fiddle, the song, and 
the dance — the machinery of allurement scarcely went 
farther. These temptations, it is quite possible, con- 
veyed in plain verse and vehicled by many pleasing tunes, 
were useful auxiliaries to the labours of the press-gang; 
but they also helped to confirm many odd notions of the 
sailor's character which had long been floating loose on 
the surface of public opinion. In reality, Dibdin merely 
helped onwards some old queer prejudices and super- 
stitions. The Pipeses, and Hatchways, and Trunnions 
not only drank as heavily as the Wapping heroes of 
Dibdin's muse ; they were out and away their superiors 
as artists in bad language. In truth, if we are to believe 
the old novelists and the playwrights from Beaumont and 
Fletcher down to John O'Keeffe, the men who fought 
and bled for this country at sea, and who hoisted her as a 



THE OLD NAVAL SEASONQ. 241 

nation to the world's masthead, were the most hardened 
race of ruflSans, huUies, swearers, and drunkards that 
ever hiccoughed out blasphemies under the stars. This 
is the character of the noble fellows who fought under 
Hawkins, Shovel, Hawke, Eodney, Nelson, Colliugwood, 
as we find it in the old sea-song. Were even the tra- 
ditions half true, there would have been but little done 
by our sailors for Dibdin and the other song writers to 
sing about ! Here is a stanza embodying the wishes of 
a tarpaulin of the reign of George H. : 

** Let there be sailors to carry mo, 
Let them be dreadfuUy drunk ; 
And as they're a-going to bury me, 
Let them fall down with my trunk : 

" Let there be no fighting nor sobbing, 
But one single favour I crave — 
Take me up in my tarpaulin jacket, 
And fiddle and danoe to my grave." 

It is in such delectable doggerel as this that we must 
seek for the origin of the land-going idea of the sailor, 
a libellous idea whose influence is to be witnessed in the 
nautical play, ballad, and novel of the current hour. 
Nevertheless, many of the old sea-songs, particularly 
those in which there is no reference to grog and to pretty 
Sukey, are full of a true and stirring spirit. They seem 
as if jotted down in a moment of inspiration in the heat 
of the conflict, when the air was dark with the smoke of 
battle and when the cannons' roar rolled in thunder 
through the gloom. Such is *' Bold Sawyer," with its 
brisk opening invitation : 

"BOLD SAWYER. 

•* Come, all ye jolly sailors, with courage stout and bold, 
Come, enter with bold Sawyer, he'll cloatlio you all in gold, 
Repair on board the old NaamUf 
As fine a ship as e'er you saw, 



I 



242 THE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONQ. ! 

We'll make the French to stand in awe. 
She's manned with British hoys. 

** Commodore Keppel with his good design. 
Commanded the squadron, five sail of the-line. 
The Prince Edtoard of forty guns. 
The Firedrake and Furnace bombs. 
To take Goree, it must be done, 
By true English boys. 

** The twenty-ninth of October from Spithead we set sail. 
Kind Neptune convey'd us with a sweet and pleasant gale. 
80 steering on the Barbary shore. 
Distance about ten leagues or more. 
The wind at west aloud did roar, 
Stand by, ye British boys ! 

So steering on the lee shore until the break of day, 
We spy'd a lofty sail on the Barbary shore to lay, 
In great distress she secm'd to be. 
Her guns all overboard threw she, 
Which proved the Litchfield for to bo. 
With all her British boys. 

** The wind blowing hard we could give them no relief, 
A stretching on the lee shore we touch'd at Teneriff ; 
So watering the ships at Santa Cruz, 
Taking good wine for our ships use, 
We sold~oar deaths good wine to booze. 
Like brave British boys. 

*• Our ship being watered, and plenty of good wine. 
We hoisted our topsails, and crossed the tropic's lioe. 
The wind at west, the leading gale. 
Our gallant ship did sweetly sail. 
Steady along, she ne'er will fail, 
With all her British boys. 

" Steady aport I Don't bring her by the lee 
Yonder is the flagstaff of Goree I do see. 
We brought the city within fight, 
Anchor'd in Goree bay that night, 
Clear'd our ships ready to fight. 
Like brave British boys. 



TEE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONQ. 243 

" Early the next morning the Prince Edward of forty guns 
Was 8tation*d off the island, to coyer our two hombs ; 
With all her jovial fighting men, 
The drums did beat, to quarters stand, 
Like brave British boys. 



" We sailed up to the batteries, as close as wo could lay, 
Our guns from the top and poop aloud did play. 
Which made the French to cry, " Morblue I 
Diabel I what shall we do ? 
Here comes bold Sawyer, and all^his crew, 
They're all British boys. 



** Then followed by the Dunkirk and Torhny, 
Tiie g^ns aloud did rattle, and the shells aloud did play, 
\Vhich made the French their batteries shun, 
And from their trenches for to run. 
The flag was struck, the fight was done, 
O huzza ! my British boys. 



** The NoisaUf with Dunkirk, and Torhaij of renown, 
Three as fine vessels as belong unto the crown ; 
The only ships that fought so free. 
In taking of the Isle of Goree, 
They are all British boys. 



** Boajt not of Frenchmen, nor yet of Maclome. 
Sawyer's as big a hero as ever yet was known. 
Whilst the shot around him did flee. 
In engaging twice the Isle Goree, 
As valiant men as ever you see. 
They are all British boys. 

*• Here's a health to Ring George our Sovereign Majesty, 
Likewise to bold Sawyer, that fought the French so free. 
Our officers and all our crew, 
Are valiant men as e'er you knew, 
6'> here's a health to all true blue, 
My bra e British boys.' 



»> 



244 THE OLD NAVAL 8EA-80NG. 

There is a strong healthy pulse, too, in such a song 
as the ^* London Man-of-War." 

••THE LONDON MAN-OF-WAR. 

" The fourteenth day of August in Plymouth Sound we lay. 
On board the Common Order we could no longer stay, 
As on the coast of Ireland, our orders did run so, 
It was to cruise, but ne*er refuse, when we met with our proud foe. 

" We had not sailed many leagues before we did espy 
A lofty sail to the windward come bearing down so nigh ; 
They hailed us in French, my boys, and ask'd from whence we came, 
Our answer was ^ From Liverpool, and the London is our name.' 

** * If you're the London man-of-war, as I suppose you be, 
We are the Royal Delamarquej that you shall quickly see : 
'Tis, boys, haul up your courses 1 and let your ship lay to. 
Your men so stout, your boats let out, or else we will sink you.' 

** The first broadside we gave to them we struck them with such wonder. 
Their lofty yards and topmasts came rattling down like thunder. 

* ThaVs very well I that's very well I * our captain he did say ; 

* That's very well I ' says our commodore, * we'U show *em British play.* 

•* The next broadside we gave to them, so hot our shot did fly. 
We shot away their ensign-staff, and down their colours lie : 

* That's very well I that's very well ! * our captain he did say, 

* Come, draw your swords and pistols load, for we'll board without delay.' 

^ So now we've taken the Delamarquef and safe in Plymouth Sound, 
But when we do cast anchor we'll fire our guns all round ; 
Here's a health unto the captain, and all such warlike souls. 
To him let's drink, but never shrink, over full flowing bowls.' 



»f 



For " The Bold Salamander," "Blow, Boreas, blow," 
and others whose titles it would be idle to quote, I have 
no space. I doubt whether we shall ever again have 
sea-songs of the old pattern. It is not perhaps that the 
sentiment of the age is opposed to them,. though the old 
Blackwall and Erith tomfoolery of drink, jSddling, and 
the like, would not perhaps be found very suitable to the 



THE OLD NAVAL SEA^SONa. 245 

tastes of the day; the difficulty lies in t'le dearth of 
nautical topics. For my part, I cannot understand what 
kind of opportunities the naval war of the future is to 
supply the nautical song writer with. There is nothing 
poetical in the armourclad, nothing inspiring. A ship 
swelling like a cloud upon the sea, with cabin windows 
flashing, an admiral in a cocked hat walking the quarter- 
gallery, the white hammock line of the vessel's towering 
defences dotted with the red coats of marines, the blue 
surge breaking in sheets of silver against the golden 
brightness of the metal sheathing, pretty little midship- 
men in lace and dirks strutting the almond- white quarter- 
deck, groups of bronzed and brawny sailors at work with 
junks of tobacco standing high under their cheekbones — 
here were materials to colour the poetaster's meekest 
jingle, and to put a free and windy and briny life of 
their own into the most halting sing-song that ever 
teased the ear. There were twenty different types of 
ships to write about; from that cloud-like pyramid, 
the four-decker, giving tongues of flame and voices of 
thunder to the meaning and the message of the nation, 
down to the little cutter that, with stern and fore-chaser 
only, heightened the brightness of the annals with many 
a sparkling passage. There were a thousand colours, 
and all were magical. But marine romance is now 
as fiat as though the machinery with which the iron 
plate is rolled out had passed over it. What can 
there be of seamanship for the poet to sing of when 
the genius of the chase lies in the revolutions of the 
engines and in an amidship helm ? There is no 
weather-gage now to manoeuvre for. It matters not 
to a steamer how the wind sits. Jack, when he works 
his gun, will keep his shirt on, stand inside a metal 
tower, and let fly at an enemy two leagues distant. His 



246 TBE OLD NAVAL SEA-SONG. 

ship is as ugly as the dugong. It is not in poetic art 
to idealize her. A roaring old sea-song of the type of 
the '* Saucy Arethusa," or " Stand to your guns, my 
hearts of oak," would ring with but a melancholy note 
through the iron interior of the armourclad. Indeed, 
the extinction of the naval sailing-ship is of neces- 
sity the extinction of the naval sea-song as we under- 
stand the expression. The poet must go to the merchant 
service now if he wants marine suggestions. Yet the 
sailor need not complain. There is a large old-fashioned 
literature in marine ballads to choose from whenever he 
feels disposed to tune up his pipes, and he will also hold 
that until the nautical song writer resolves to quit the 
mouldy and impure traditions of caricature, the less he 
says about Jack the better.* 

* Beprinted from Longman's Magazine* 



AN OLD SHIPWRIGHT. 

In the days of Queen Anne a shipwright wrote a book 

upon his art. Of his qualification for such an under- 

taking one gets a good idea from ^hat he says in his 

preface: "'Tis the product of thirty-two years' study 

and experience; for 'tis very well known that I have 

been so long imploy'd in her Majesty's service and that 

of her Eoyal predecessors ; so that I may say I was in 

a manner a bom seaman, as most of my ancestors were. 

My grandfather was foreman to the shipwrights in her 

Majesty's yard at Deptford thirty years ; my uncle, Mr. 

Bagwell; died master builder of her Majesty's yard at 

Portsmouth; my father, and several of my relations 

were master carpenters in the Royal Navy, and I myself 

have had the honour to act in the quality of master 

carpenter of three of her Majesty's ships, and for fifteen 

years last past have served her Majesty in the inspection 

and direction of the work done by part of the shipwrights 

at Portsmouth." So that posterity should be very well 

satisfied that when this old Queen Anne man sat down 

to relate to the public of his day all that he could tell 

about his particular business he exactly knew what he 

was going to write about. It is a book that would have 

delighted Charles Lamb, had that author had any relish 

for marine archaisms and the sort of nautical literary 



• 218 AN OLD SHIPWRIGHT 

flavour that sets one thinking of the smell of a bit of 
green timber fished up out of a wreck that has been for 
a century under water. It is full of intoxicated-looking 
woodcuts, which defy the most painstaking inspection, 
and the language throughout is amusingly quaint with 
simplicity of mind and gravely-aired knowledge — of a 
most childlike aspect, as one may suppose, to us of this 
scientific generation. 

The pleasure I found in reading this old book was 
the sort of pleasure any man proud of our maritime 
traditions, and a lover of what is early and distant in 
the sailor's calling, would take in looking over a very old 
ship — a vessel built say in Queen Anne's reign — ^rigged 
as craft then were, and manned by seamen capable of 
telling the visitor the names which ropes and sails and 
rigging had, in the days when Swift was wrecking 
Gulliver, and when Dampier was gaining in the South 
Seas those wonderful experiences which Defoe was after- 
wards to profit from in dealing with the surprising 
adventures of such gentlemen as Colonel Jack and 
Captain Singleton. There is no ship in this age any- 
where to be found that was built and rigged and equipped 
in the days of Queen Anne ; but an old author, after the 
pattern of the shipwright I am dealing with, talking to 
one out of a book, comes very near to reconstructing 
such a craft ; and, as a guide, he is bound to be cleverer 
and livelier than any modern could prove, even if there 
was a real Queen Anne ship to look at, because he not 
only appears before us habited in the garb of an artisan 
who worked scores and scores of years ago in her 
Majesty's yards, but can show us hands hardened with 
the tree-nails he has driven into many a vanished fabric, 
and with the saws with which he has cut through the 
grain of many a noble piece of hearty English oak. 



AN OLD SHIPWRIGHT. 249 

The history of shipbuilding in this country is the 
history of England. It was the ringing echo of the 
shipwright's hammer that gave, as it still gives, to 
**Eule Britannia " its true melody. But how many of 
us, I wonder, in looking at a fine modern sailing ship, 
think of her as the outcome of centuries of slow experi- 
mental toil? Meet such a craft on the high seas, under 
full sail ; you realize, then, the superb taste that has 
gone to the creation of that fabric, sentient with the 
spirit of the deep ; you remark square upon square of 
canvas rising and dwindling as the white spaces mount, 
and your heart salutes the gracefulest object in the 
world. See the jibs swelling from the jibbooms in 
beautiful curves to the mastheads, the courses, and 
topsails, and topgallantsails rounding like a woman's 
bosom on either side the tension of the buntlines, the 
royals and skysails shining like stars up in the dark 
blue air ; note the perfect symmetry of every yard and 
every space of canvas, the judgment exhibited in every 
shroud, stay and backstay, the grand dominating 
pointing of the bowsprit and jibbooms, the moulded 
sides along which the snow-white froth is rushing ; then 
consider the ease with which this large and lovely fabric 
is rendered obedient, how by the braces the yards may 
be trimmed till the leaning vessel slides aslant the wind 
like a gull in the eye of a gale. We know what painters 
think of such a picture ; we know how the dullest eye 
will brighten to such a sight ; but to appreciate all that 
it means we must go a long, long way back, into times 
anterior to periwigs, when the spirit of adventure was 
a kind of madness, and when all the mechanical brains 
of the nation were planning and devising ocean vehicles 
for the navigation of the unmeasured seas behind whose 
blue girdle lay the fairylands of pearl and gold and gems. 



250 AN OLD SHIPWRIGHT. 

To encounter a Queen Anne's shipwright is like 
halting in a half-way house. My old author's grand- 
father, "who was foreman to the shipwrights in her 
Majesty's yard at Deptford thirty years," would, had he 
been alive when his grandson in his old age was writing 
his book on shipbuilding, have doubtless wandered 
about the yards with mouth wide open with wonder at 
the things he saw, whilst he compared them with the 
things which he remembered. No doubt he would see 
plenty to find fault with. One can picture him shaking 
a withered face over the design of a ship whose length 
was to be actually three times that of her beam; and 
he might possibly resent the regular use of the top- 
gallant sail as an innovation that would account 
for many a missing craft. But he could not but be 
astonished at such ambitious progress as reckoned the 
construction of a " great e shippe " of four hundred tons 
nothing to excite marvel : and he might find something 
to respect, perhaps, in the ""taste that restricted the 
height of the poop to about twice that of the forecastle. 
Yet it must be admitted that this old grandfather would 
not have found that much advance had been made in 
respect of beauty, symmetry, and convenience during 
the time that he had flourished. Even his grandson 
would have had to go on living pretty nearly another 
century from the date of his book to understand that 
the British shipwright had been wofuUy lacking in good 
taste, not only during his own, but during his grand- 
father's and great-grandfather's time. Yet let these 
ancient workmen have due honour. Bit by bit they had 
progressed, adding here, narrowing there, inventing 
marine terms, which can perish only with the language ; 
and their claim as the creators of the stateliest sailing 
ship that at the present day leaves the Mersey or the 



AN OLD 8SIFWBIQBT, 251 

Thames is tenfold larger than can be advanced by the 
actual builder of the yessel. This is the consideration 
that makes one read such a book as this with the same 
deep interest that one would find in the inspection of a 
completely rigged ship of that age. It is the stateliness 
of the full-branched oak that gives the sapling its 
fascination. 

In going over a vessel two hundred years old, were 
such a vessel possible, a man might feel not a little 
surprised to learn that the names of much of the rigging 
and spars of the ancient craft were identical with those 
now in use and applied to the same objects. One never 
feels so much how old a calling the sailor's is, till one 
turns back to an age in which the mariner's vocation 
seems little more than an affair of ''galleases" and 
"rowe barges." In this dim and dusty Queen Anne 
book on shipbuilding I find hundreds of words which 
form at this time the seaman's vocabulary. Whenever 
the spelling differs from ours the etymology is suggested ; 
as, for instance, in the word "gyb" for "jib," which 
explains the derivation of the term "gybing" or 
"jibing," as it is sometimes spelt, though it used to 
be pronounced "jibbing." It would be well, perhaps, 
if old works of this kind were accepted as authoritative 
in respect of the orthography of sea words. There is no 
need to write " shrouds " " shrowds ; " but such words 
as "hallyards," "lanyards," "mizin," and the like 
might not unreasonably have been left as they were 
written in days when the meaning they had, as apart 
from the signification they imparted, was fully under- 
stood. A full-rigged ship in the time of this author 
differed but little in essentials and terms from the same 
fabric of the day. The royal had not then come into 
use, but I notice the frequent employment of the term 



252 AN OLD 8EIP WRIGHT. 

" stump topgallant mast," which might easily be thought 
to imply that "long topgallant masts" were also in 
existence. They had a '* mizen yard " as well as a 
" crossjack yard." This " mizen yard " is described as 
being as long as the foreyard. It was of a lateen nature, 
lying, when hoisted, at an angle upon the mizenmast, 
and supplying with its after end a gaff for a sail that 
would with us be termed the spanker. The furniture of 
the bowsprit was very different from what it now is. 
Upon this spar were set a spritsail and a spritsail top- 
sail, and there was also a top or platform for men to 
stand on. The only kind of jib I find my author speak 
of he calls " a flying gyb, a sail of good service, to draw 
the ship forward, but very prejudicial to the wear of the 
ship forward. 'Tis used with a boom or small mast 
extended at the extreme of the bowsprit." It is not so 
very many years since that the flying jibboom of a ship 
was a separate spar, distinct from the jibboom, and 
reeving through irons on it, so here, at all events, is a 
Queen Anne fashion that survived certainly down to 
the year 1860. 

Their staysails were then as now, excepting that 
there were no royal staysails. They had also sails 
called '' studding sails, made use of at the extremes of 
the main yard and topsail yards, very beneficial when 
the ship goes before the wind or quartering, otherwise 
they are useless." We must have somewhat improved 
upon this, seeing that, on a bowline, a foretopmast 
studding sail can be set and made to do good work. 
Then, again, their lower yards come down on the 
bulwarks by means of jeers, a custom that lasted long 
enough to be within the experience of many living 
seamen. The patent truss dislodged this cumbrous 
arrangement, though I dare say old mariners would 



AN OLD SHIPWRIGHT. 2S3 

often believe that the safety of their ships depended 
upon stripping her aloft and getting the lower yards on 
deck. Saving the names applied to such obsolete 
arrangements as spritsails, round-tops^ jack crosstrees, 
and so forth^ the present age still preserves most of the 
shipbuilding and nautical terms in use in the days of 
this old author, and one reads, not without surprise, in 
a book printed nearly two centuries ago, of jack-staffs, 
lifts and backstays, of gammoning, clew-garnets and 
ratlines, of caps, tops, and dead-eyes, and of guess-ropes, 
bowlines, and bolt-ropes. Such indeed is marine con- 
servatism in the matter of nomenclature that I believe 
could any seaman who had sailed with Anson or Carteret, 
or even with Hawkins or Cavendish, rise from his grave 
and sign articles for the most eminently modem vessel 
that now uses the West India Docks, he could scarcely 
receive an order, the language of which, in so far as it 
referred to ropes and sails and masts, would not be 
perfectly intelligible to him. 

Here, for instance is a sample of nautical phraseology 
current when Queen Anne was reigning. *' Beeves," 
meaning reef-points, *' are to take up part of the sail as 
the wind rises, and it becomes dangerous either for the 
sides of the ship or the masts to carry the topsail a-trip ; 
and if it should be lower'd without being reefd, it will 
not stand sharp to the wind, but bag and be opposed to 
the motion of the ship." Again : " The lower part of 
the topsails are spread by the main-yards, there being 
blocks provided for that purpose, called topsail-sheet 
blocks, the topsail sheets being reev'd there, and brought 
through another block near the slings of the yard, and 
so handed down to the decks, where they are reev'd 
through knight heads, and so hal'd home, and belay'd 
about the knight heads, or topsail-sheet bits." All this 
17 



254 AN OLD SHIPWRIGHT. 

is quaintly enongli expressed, but who \v^ould suppose 
that it was two centuries old ? 

This ancient shipwright devotes a chapter of his 
work to what he calls "hydrostatic problems, or the 
measure of shipping consider'd." At this particular 
period, when senatorial fulminations against shipowners 
are resounding throughout the land, and when we are 
taught to regard overloading as peculiarly the vice of 
this age, one starts on coming in my dingy, queerly 
printed volume, on such a passage as this : " Some ships 
and from some places are laden a great deal deeper than 
they are from others ; and, indeed, some are extrava- 
gantly laden, especially colliers.** So then, nearly two 
hundred years ago there were owners, clad in full- 
bottomed wigs, wearing swords and rapping jewelled 
snuffboxes in polite coflFee-houses, behaving precisely 
as their posterity are acting, as one should suppose. 
How was it that no Mr. PlimsoU arose in those days ? 
How was it that there was no President of the Board 
of Trade to fire round after round at the heads of 
the ship-owning community? My old shipwright pic- 
turesquely explains why: "But if such persons sink 
their craft by so doing, I cannot perceive who they can 
disoblige more than themselves, provided they sink in 
the sea, and do not hinder or embarrass the sailing of 
other ships, or the uses which may be requisite to the 
trade of other men." That is to say, founder if you 
please in sixty fathoms, but don't go and sink in our 
fair ways, or in our harbours and rivers. These over- 
loading people disoblige nobody more than themselves, 
because the destruction of the vessels was their loss, and 
not the underwriters*. The passage indicates a. state 
of things which most of us are anxious to witness in the 
present age; yet, surely, some moral lies in the ship- 



AN OLD SHIPWRIGHT. 255 

Wright's statement that owners overloaded their ships, 
especially colliers, albeit uninsured. Suppose the loss 
of a ship is rendered ungainful to the owner ; will that 
stop extravagant loading ? Apparently it had no effect 
in the days of Queen Anne. There is yet another point 
that has greatly exercised the minds of this generation 
which my old shipwright, nearly two hundred years 
since disposed of in the most comfortable manner 
imaginable, and settled to his own entire satisfaction. 
I refer to that extremely nauseating subject, tonnage, 
on which a specially appointed Commission sat some 
time ago, without producing the smallest result. Says 
my old shipwright : " The measure of a ship may be 
considered three several ways. First, what the cavity 
will hold. Secondly, what superficial or solid inches 
are contained in her. Thirdly, What she will bear or 
carry safely from one port to another, without damnifying 
the goods so transported. And which of these," he 
continues, " may most properly be taken to adjust the 
tunnage of a ship, was never yet determined.*' He 
decides for the last, and his plan for getting at the 
" tunnage " of a ship is this : — 

**I fit two parallelopipedon pieces exactly square, 
whichy together, make up the magnitude of the ship 
under water, from the upper edge of the keel to the deep 
load-mark line. Those pieces I fit to their greatest 
lengths and breadth of the ship, that there may be 
nothing to do but to shave them to the circular figure 
of the body. Then I weigh them in a pair of very even 
scales of equal magnitude, exactly minding the quality 
and quantity of the poise. Then I measure the parallelo- 
pipedons, and see what they contain in foot measure, 
according to the scale I make use of for that purpose. 
After this, I shape them according to the direct fashion 



266 AN OLD SHIFWBIQET. 

and similitude of the ship under the deep load-mark 
line. I then weigh them again by the same weights 
before mentioned. But there will be no occasion to 
measure them again, for you may say, as the weight 
rough is to the measure rough, so is the weight fashion'd 
off to the measure fashion'd. Which product I divide 
by thirty-three, the quantity of feet contain'd in one 
tun of water, and it gives me the true and exact tunnage 
of the ship." 

He more minutely explains himself by an example ; 
he bids us understand that 601b. avoirdupois, are equal 
to 731b. troy, and that one foot of water is 62Jlb. 
avoirdupois, and 83ft. make a tun. 

"Then," says he, "upon weighing the parallelo- 
pipedon pieces with shillings and pence, I find the upper 
and lower pieces together rough weigh 54». 4d. ; the 
area of the length, breadth, and depth of the upper piece 
is 80,880ft., the area of the lower piece is 78,125ft. 
making a total of 159,006 ; upper weight trimm'd off or 
fashion'd weighs 24a. 9d., lower weight 15«. 6d., together 
40s. 3d. Then, if 64s. 4d. give 159,005ft., what shall 
40s. 3i. give? And it gives 117,798ft., which divided 
by 33 is 3,569 tuns, the weight of the ship at her deep 
load-mark." 

He then proceeds, by means of the same arithmetic, 
to show the weight of the vessel at her launching. 
It is possible there may be shipwrights living who can 
see what this old Queen Anne man means. I confess 
I don't. But, nevertheless, the chat of this ancient 
artisan, even when I don't quite follow him — the talk of 
this quaint old chap, who gets at a ship's tonnage by 
weighing strangely named things with shillings and 
pence— is extremely amusing and interesting to me, and 
I never quit his page without the sort of feeling a diver 



AN OLD SHIPWRIGHT. 257 

of sensibility might have, who emerges into the sunlight 
out of the cabin of a craft that went to the bottom when 
Milton was bewailing Lycidas. To hear what this ship- 
wright has to tell about shipbuilding, rigging, tonnage, 
and such things, makes one think of him as a marine 
Eip Van Winkle, who fell asleep when Queen Anne died, 
and now wakes up gravely to talk about the art of ship- 
building, as though steam were yet two hundred years 
distant, and the Agincourts and Teineraires were little 
more than snows and pinks. There is a magic in such 
a dusty old tome as this, with its wild cuts, uncouth 
type, and queerly spelt words, which it is quite possible 
to seek in vain in much of the poetry and the philo- 
sophical essays, the sermons and dramas of my old 
friend's day. For he opens wide a great scene, draws 
apart the curtains of the past, and forces you to look 
back and behold with your own eyes the causes of this 
country's greatness. His drawings are rude ; the ships 
they represent of a bewildering pattern; but the messages 
they delivered from their coarse and powerful oaken 
sides ring down in thunder along the centuries to us yet, 
and we know that the men who manned them did giant's 
work in making our national flag what it is. 



CAN THESE DRY BONES LIVE? 

** Well, sir," said the old captaiu to me — a retired ship- 
master, with the gaze of a vulture under the apparently 
sleepy lid, and a face full of lines and discoloration 
like the wrinkling of currents in the glassy swathes of 
a dead calm on some dingy spread of water off the West 
African coast — " 1 had been always a bit superstitious 
up to then, but I own that that job cured me. But it 
made me see also that it isn't reasonable to be too 
contemptuous of one's fellow-creatures who believe in 
spirits and manifestations, of which there is no organ, 
sense, or quality in the human body to take notice of, 
saving credulity. It comes to this, sir : human nature 
never gets beyond a certain pass. We sail to that 
point, and then the wind shifts, and we drop astern. 
From time to time it is put into us to think foolishly, 
that the thoughtful amongst us may understand how 
little ahead of the old folks we are, spite of all our 
discoveries. I've watched this fad of ghosts amongst 
us of late ; the growth of societies which aim to enlarge 
men's knowledge of what doesn't exist ; and it takes me 
back to the days when I was a young 'un, when there 
were still witches in the country, and old women were 
ducked and drowned for sailing athwart the moonlight 
on broomsticks. We were a bit coarser then in our 



CAN THESE DRY BONES LIVEf 259 

superstitions than now, made our ghosts hags instead 
of spirits of beauty, fled from candles in turnips, and 
reckoned that when old Bogey wanted us he arrived 
down the chimney. But the quality remains the same. 
It is only brightened in these times, polished up, and 
made to look in other ways finer. Now, however, to 
give you my yarn. 

" I was master of a ship of eight hundred tons. We 
were loaded with a general cargo, bound to the East 
Indies. It is many years ago, when ship's companies 
were numerous, partly through the compulsion of the 
navigation laws, partly because owners wanted their 
ships to keep afloat, partly because you wouldn't have 
got sailors to ship if there had not been hands to do the 
work ; and my complement numbered between forty and 
forty-five men. In a crowd of this kind one doesn't 
take particular notice. When the crew are few, you 
come to know your Jims, and Joes, and Toms, as you 
come to know your dogs at home, or as a man who is 
worth only a few shillings is not only conscious of what 
he has in his pocket, but can tell you the character of 
the coins also. We were without passengers, simply a 
well-manned cargo vessel, all of the olden time, though 
a handsome boat in our way, frigate-built, painted ports, 
wide channels, great black tops, the yards square enough 
to serve a line of battle-ship, and the royals, when 
mast-headed, sitting close against the trucks — the 
properest topping oS, to my taste, to the fabric of a 
full-rigged ship. 

" We had been out a fortnight, when in the afternoon 
there came on a sudden squall. The fore and mizen 
topgallant sails were clewed up, with a hand standing 
by at the main topgallant halUards. I noticed some 
figures in the forerigging going aloft to roll up the sail 



260 CAN THESE DBF BONES LIVEf 

there, and then on a sudden there was a commotion, a 
running of men forward, and a gathering of them into 
a heap around something. I told the mate to go and 
see what was the matter. He returned with the news 
that a man in the act of going aloft had fallen dead on 
deck off the rail. We were without a doctor, and all 
hands looked to me in a case of this kind. I walked to 
where the man lay, and found him to be an able sea- 
man ; an old yellow-haired man, whose face I had before 
taken notice of for the ghastly complexion of it ; a sort 
of dusky, parchment-like hue, the colour of sailor's 
duff that's been too long in the coppers. The lids were 
half closed, nothing but the whites showing ; the lips 
set hard in a sort of half grin, without froth, and the 
arms outstretched in the posture of a crucified person. 
Short of a skeleton, to my notion, one ought never to 
be able to say cocksurely, pointing to a body, * this is 
Death.' The fellow might be in a faint, or in a fit, or a 
cataleptic; his body in death's strait jacket, and the 
mind within all alive and wondering what the deuce has 
gone wrong outside. I ordered him to be carried to his 
bunk and rubbed, and to be treated as if he was to be 
brought to, and if that failed, then to be stowed away 
out of the sight of the men ; but not to be stitched up 
for a bit, so that if there was any spark of life in him it 
might have a chance. The fact is, I wanted to make 
sure that he was a dead man before he was tossed over- 
board, a very proper feeling in me, no doubt, though 
there was a touch of morbidity in it, too ; for, to tell 
the truth, the one quiet horror of my life in those days 
was the thought of being buried alive, and what I feared 
for myself I was not the sort of man to put upon another. 
" Well, after two days we were all agreed that he 
was dead, so I gave orders for him to be stitched up and 



CAN THESE I)BT BONES LlVEf 261 

brought to the gangway, and next morning after break- 
fast we held the service. It was always my desire 
that matters of this kind should be carried out with 
proper solemnity* I considered it worked as a whole- 
some influence amongst the sailors, who were made to 
understand that a dead seaman on the ocean was not 
to be treated as if he were a dead pauper out of a 
workhouse ; that a show of respect and regret, at all 
events, should go to his funeral, since a shipmate is a 
shipmate the wide world over. The body, stitched in 
its hammock, with a sinker stowed away in the clews, 
was placed upon a grating and covered with the ensign. 
Then the grating was lifted by four men and brought 
to the rail, one end of it resting there, the other end 
supported by .two men, who stood ready to whip off the 
ensign and let the body slide when the time should 
come for so doing. 

** All hands gathered around, washed and clean. It 
was a quiet morning, a light breeze of wind blowing, 
the ship under all plain sail, everything silent aloft, the 
deck heaving slightly to the small beam sea. I came 
out of the cabin with my prayer-book in my hand and 
started to read, the men baring their heads, i^ith the 
grinding here and there of a jaw upon a hunk of 
tobacco standing high in the cheek-bone, and much 
wistful and inquisitive peering at poor Jack's outline 
by eyes bleared by the gales of wind into which they 
had stared. 

'* I was proceeding, reading with great emphasis and 
solemnity, when there rose from under the enl&ign a 
short muffled, groaning sort of cry of ' For GocCs sake 
cut me adrift, mates f Tm suffocating I ' 

" The prayer-book fell from my hand ; the two fellows 
who were holding the grating let go of it and shot 



2G2 CAN THESE DBY BONES LIVEI 

forward, whereupon off rolled the body on to the deck 
amongst the feet of the sailors, who, letting fly a volley 
of curses in their alarm, bolted in all directions, some 
of them even jumping into the rigging. Had a bomb- 
shell exploded amongst us the clearance effected could 
not have been more complete. 

" The mates had run away as well as the seamen, 
and the cowardice of all hands put temper enough into 
me to rally my nerves. 

" * Quick,' I bawled ; ' cut the poor wretch adrift, 
or he'll be suffocated in good earnest, and it will be a 
worse murder done than had we buried him.' 

'' On this the chief mate and some others came to 
the body, shouldering one another, and ripped open 
the hammock. Well, dead or alive, 'twould have been 
better to have given the thing its last toss than have 
witnessed such a sight. You see it was warmish weather, 
and the body besides had been — but I'll say no more 
on that ; only that such an apparition rising before the 
stoutest army that ever took the field would have sent 
it flying without waiting for the buglers to sound. But 
he'd called out that he was suffocating, and we looked 
to see him move, a]l hands coming up in bunches at a 
time, till there we were all of a heaving and squirming 
muddle, with this horror in the midst of us, and the men 
squirting juice in all directions through sheer loathing. 

" * If that man ben't dead,' said the bo'sun, * my 
eyes ain't mates.' 

** ' Did he wriggle at all ? ' said I, addressing one of 
the fellows who held the grating, * before you let go and 
run away ? ' 

" The man answered he hadn't noticed any move- 
ment. 

" * He spoke, anyway,' said the mate. 



CAN TUESE DRY BONES LlVEl 263 

** * Well, pickle my eyes for onions if there was ever 
a rnmmier start than this,' cried the carpenter, stooping 
to* look close at the man, and then recoiling with a 
heave of the breast and a long wipe of his mouth down 
the length of his hairy arm. 

** I ordered the body to be carried to a cabin, and put 
the second mate along with a seaman to watch it ; but 
their report to me was that if the fellow was alive he 
gave no signs of it, but that, on the contrary, he was 
imitating death so incomparably as to oblige them to 
beg me to allow some others to relieve them, as they 
did not feel strong enough to go on. I then viewed the 
body myself, and no longer having a doubt gave orders 
that it should be stitched up afresh and once again 
brought to the gangway. 

" It was now eight bells in the afternoon. Of course 
it was right that this old Jack should be buried decently, 
and I resolved to go through with the funeral service, 
but I let it be known that there was no obligation upon 
the men to attend outside the few who were needed to 
do the work. Nevertheless all hands turned up as 
before. Well, I started to read as I had in the morning, 
but at ihe very moment, of my pronouncing the same 
words I was delivering when the interruption happened, 
there came a most audible but half-choking and half- 
smothered groan or grunt of ' OA, Lord, they mean to 
drown me after all! ' from under the ensign. 

" The fellow that held the right corner of the grating 
let go, and went backing amongst his mates with a cry 
of dismay ; but the other man, bawling out with a face 
darkened by passion, *You old villain! how many 

burials d'ye expect, and be d d to you ! * tilted the 

grating and away flashed the hammock overboard. 

" We all stood looking on like idiots. For my part. 



264 CAN THESE DltT BONES LIVEt 

captain as I was, I hadn't a word to say for the moment. 
In fact, I was thunderstruck. The groan of the corpse 
was scarce off the ear before the body was gone, and yet 
you couldn't think of us as having drowned him either, 
for nothing could have seemed deader than did this old 
Jack when I took my last view of him. However, no 
purpose could be served by making a fuss ; it was one 
of those breaches of discipline that defy your cool reason 
though you may handle them as you will in a passion. 
Besides, a moment or two's reflection, coupled with a 
look round, satisfied me that the men would be easier in 
their minds for being quit of the body, and so, telling 
the mate to send the hands forward, I went to my cabin ; 
but more mystified, under a livelier consternation of 
mind, in short, than it would suit me to admit to every- 
body. It was idle to talk of tricks. I might have 
reconciled myself to some notion of that kind had I 
made one of two or three spectators ; but here had been 
forty or fifty of us all lumped together, and the reality of 
the thing came out in the sincerity of the fright, for the 
morning panic was much greater than I have put it, 
whilst the terror in the afternoon might have shown as 
wild, had the fellows at the grating let fall the body again 
amongst the men. 

" Well, at ten o'clock that night I left the deck to lie 
down. All was quiet. The influence of that day's work 
was expressed in the manner of the men, who had moved 
and talked very soberly, with subdued gestures and tones, 
and in the dog-watches I had noticed them hanging to- 
gether in knots, conversing like people fresh from an 
execution. I was aroused horn, my sleep by the second 
mate, who had charge of the deck. 

" * There's the whole watch below, sir, come aft to 
complain that they can't get any rest.' 



CAN THESE DRY BONES LIVEf 265 

*' ' What's the matter ? ' said I, starting up. 

" * Why, they say they can hear old Jack's voice 
calling to them down in the forepeak.' 

"*01d Jack's voice?' I cried, and with that I 
followed him on deck, where, sure enough, I found all 
hands massed together on the quarter-deck. 

" * What's the matter, men ? * I called out, leaning 
over the rail at the break of the poop to speak to them. 

" The carpenter spoke up, ' There's old Jack hailing 
us in the.forepeak, sir.' 

" * Nonsense, man.' 

" ' Smite me, sir, if it ain't the blooming truth ; not 
only hailing but a-cussing us for having drowned him.' 

'^ * But you must know that that can't be,' said I, 
' he's leagues astern and fathoms deep.' 

** A voice answered, * He's cussing us all the same. 
He swears he'll haunt us all overboard.' 

** I told the second mate to go forward and report if 
he could hear anything of this strange voice. A shadowy 
group of men went with him ; indeed, I doubt if he would 
have had heart to drop into the forecastle alone. Pre- 
sently he returned, coming aft with a run and speaking 
with a broken breath. 

" * It's true, sir,' he gasped, ' if it isn't old Jack, it's 
the devil. I heard him say, " TU punish all of ye for 
drowning of me. Head as you wiU, His old Jack as is at 
the helium now, and so stand by/" * 

"'But, good thunder!* cried I, *how is a man's 
voice going to sound in the forecastle out of the forepeak? 
Answer me that, you fool.' 

** ' Well, come forrards and hear it yourself, sir,' he 
exclaimed sullenly. 

" I instantly assented, and walked forward, followed 
by all hands ; and not without a beating heart, I admit, 



266 CAN THESE BUY BONES LIVEf 

but 'with a good air of carelessness upon me, I stepped 
into the forecastle. It was a topgallant forecastle, entered 
by doors abreast of the windlass ends; a slush lamp 
swung under the beam, and the light was very weak I 
entered with the second mate, and stood listening. For 
some minutes nothing • sounded but the hard breathing 
of the seamen, who filled the doorways, squeezing the 
foremost in, though these pressed back like a wall, 
making such a jamas might account for louder snorings. 
Queer creakings and groanings arose out of the slightly 
swaying hull into the silence, with the faint sound of the 
bow wave softly washing from the cutwater. Then, on 
a sudden, I heard a dim hoarse voice — weakened as it 
were by the thickness of the deck between, with a note 
of rage in it as though the fellow could barely articulate 
for his teeth being fixed — exclaim, * Curse the ship, I says/ 
curse all hands in her, says I. Fm a murdered man, and 
TU h^unt ye aU.* 

" * There, sir,' cried the second mate, backing to the 
men, whose breathing was now stormy with emotion. 

" Scarce was this said, when one of the seamen, who 
had apparently been forced forwards by the pressure of 
the others, was run almost up to me by the long arm of 
the chief mate, who, unperceived by me, had worked his 
way into the crowd to learn what was going on. This 
mate stood over six feet high, and was a giant in strength, 
and the head of the fellow whom his shoulder-of-mutton 
fist grasped by the scruflf of the neck was on a level with 
his chin. 

" ' Here's the ghost, sir,' said he. 

" The sailors now came bundling in in a swarm. 

" * This is the ghost,' repeated the mate, giving the 
fellow a shake which threatened to throw his head off 
his neck. * 'Tis deuced clever, my lad, but it's a joke 



CAN THESE DRY LOSES LIVE? 267 

that wants sea room/ another shake. ' Own to it, own 
to it ! ' he cried, * before I screw your neck off.' 

** ' I own to it/ said the man. 

" ' Own to what ? ' I asked. 

<« * Why, sir,' answered the mate, * he has the trick 
of throwing his voice, and wonderfully well he does it 
too. I had my eye on him this afternoon and suspected 
him. I'm sure of it now, for he didn't know I stood 
close behind him.' 

" Some of the men muttered. I perceived that they 
looked upon this as a conspiracy between me and the 
mate to allay their fears, and clearly seeing that it must 
be as the mate said, and heartily despising myself for 
the alarm I had felt throughout the day, I immediately 
formed a resolution. 

" ' Your name's Andover ? ' said I to the man. 

" * Yes, sir,' he answered. 

" * You confess that it was yon who made old Jack 
talk on the grating and down here ? ' 

" ' I do, sir,' he answered, with a writhe, for the 
shoulder of mutton clung to him as a vice. 

" ' Prove it to the men,' said I, * and I'll forgive you. 
You can let go of him, Mr. Moore.' 

" The man coughed ; a moment after we heard old 
Jack cursing us all in the forepeak. The deception was 
exquisite ; in sober truth, my admiration of the skill of 
the fellow would have been altogether too great to suffer 
me to punish him, even had I not promised him forgive- 
ness. A few further examples of his genius sufficed 
to reassure the sailors, and I went aft, leaving them to 
deal with him as they chose. However, he managed to 
make his peace by entertaining them with his art as a 
ventriloquist. Indeed, after the first spasm of temper, 
they were too well pleased to believe that old Jack was 



208 CAN THESE DRY BONES LIVE1 

really dead and gone, and too much astonished by 
Andover's cleverness to feel much resentment, 

" I often had this man in the cabin afterwards to 
amuse me. He had the face of a born comedian, and 
I strongly advised him to start as a ventriloquist ashore, 
v^rhere, I don't doubt, under proper training, he might 
have proved a fortune for himself or for an employer. 
But, unhappily, he got into some scrape at our first port 
of call, and I had to leave him behind me ; and vehen, 
long afterwards, I inquired after him, I gathered that he 
had taken to drink and died in a hospital. Yet I recall 
him with gratitude, for he quite cured me of my super- 
stitions." 



''THAT THERE LITTLE TOMMTr 

" Well, all that I can say is, ' Here's luck, I*m sure ! ' '* 
exclaimed my nautical friend, directing his little eyes 
into an eager squint at the froth that crowned the pot 
he held in his hand. He then drank, and proceeded as 
follows: ''As I was saying, there was a gent of the 
name of Parkinson, a regular sea-side wisitor, a rich 
man, as I allow, for he always brought two servants 
with him from London, and his wife and darters went 
dressed up to the knocker, whilst their lodgings was a 
matter of some ten guineas a week — tidy bit o' money, 
eh, sir ? Only think I all that gold for the use of a roof 
and a bed, and what they calls a wiew ! — though I'd be 
glad to look out of my back winders with nothing better 
in sight than an old clothes-line and three or four hens 
for a quarter that sum, paid regular every week. Well, 
as I was a-saying, Mr, Parkinson he comes one day 
down to the beach, and calling me up to him he says, 
after a sort of look around, 

** 'Jimmy,* he says, ' I've got a scheme in my head 
which I want you to carry out for me. You was a 
blue salt-water sailor,' he says, 'for years, which is 
more'n most of your mates has got to boast of, and I 
reckon that you're the right man to execute the job 
I wants to see put into haction. You know my boy 
Tommy ? * he says. 

18 



270 ""THAT THERE LITTLE TOMMY/* 

" * I ought to/ I answers. * He's asted me questions 
enough consarning the sea life to make me know him 
if he talked inside a sack o' taters.' 

"'Ay,' says Mr. Parkinson, 'that's just it, Jimmy,' 
he says ; ' here's this hoy Tommy crazy to be off to sea. 
Of course, he don't know why he wants to go. He ain*t 
got no true notions of the life whatever. He's been a 
laying out of his pocket money in tales about pirates, 
and treasures in islands, and the likes of such 'longshore 
swash, and what with them romantic notions and the 
.craving after the gilt buttons with which they coaxes 
poor little chaps into persuading their fathers to put 
down good money for the privilege of their sons doing 
all the dirty work that is to be done at sea, there's 
nothen that'll appease him but going, and 'tween you 
and me and the bedpost, Jimmy, I don't mean that he 
should go. But how to stop him ? He's not wanting in 
sperrit, and's just the sort of lad for to run away and 
make his mother look twice as old as she is with worrit. 
Now,' he says, 'there's no doubt,' he says, says he, 
' that if I was to send him for a woyage in a collier, or 
some wessel making a short coasting trip, I might 
manage to sicken him out of the life. But then he's 
but a little chap, Jimmy, and not fit for such sufferings 
as he'd have to endure if I was to start him ou an 
experimental cruise. If it was the Eoyal Navy,' he 
says, says he, ' I dunno that I should so much object 
to his being a sailor, but this 'ere little Tommy,' he 
says, ' won't listen to the Royal Navy. He's got it 
into his head that there's no seamanship to be larnt 
aboard them ironclads, and he says nothen '11 satisfy 
him but a sailing ship, where there's plenty of climbing 
to be done and where the boys are allowed to steer ; 
wessels which go round the world and wisits all sorts 



''THAT THJlRE LITTLE TOMMYS 271 

of countries, for. d'ye see, Jimmy/ he says, *it is all 
romance on the part of this here little Tommy, and 
arter his uniform and the chance of coming home with 
a shipload of treasure, not to say of his taking command 
of a pirate when he's sarved his owners twelve months 
say, arter these here things,' he says, says he, * in that 
there little Tommy's mind come cocoanuts with a 
monkey behind, and perhaps a paroqueet to follow. He 
is but eleven years old, Jimmy,' he says, 'and what 
should such a little chap as that know about the ocean 
life ? ' 

" * Ay,' says I, ' what indeed ? ' 

" * Well,' he says, ' tell 'ee new what my scheme is. 
'Stead of sending little Tommy to sea to find out for 
himself, suppose we keep him ashore and give him all 
the hardships of the calling we can manage to heap 
upon him without doing him any hurt ? ' 

" I felt my eyes brighten, for I saw the gent's notion 
right away and reckoned it an Al copper-bottomed 
fancy. 

" ' TouVe got a house of your own, Jim,' he says. 

" * I have, sir,' says I. 

" * Well now,' says he, * suppose you take charge of 
this 'ere little Tommy and put him through his training, 
ondertaking not to hurt him. Introduce all the ship- 
board discipline that's manageable in a house.' 

" ' Ay, ay, sir,' says I, grinning, ' I see.' 

** * Don't give him nothen but shipboard wittles to 
eat ; and perhaps you'll contrive that they ain*t of the 
best at that. See that the pea-soup is like what sailors 
get in the forecastle. Better look out for some mouldy 
biscuit, too, and if there ain't no worms in it make 
pretend that there is. Likewise purwide that the water 
ain't over sweet ; contrive, if you can, to give it a sort 



'•THAT THESE LITTLE TOMMY." 

of bimghole flavey. Te know what I mean. And now/ 
says he, * have I said enough ? ' 

" * Ay, sir,' says I, on the broad grin, ' if he ain't 
cured it won't be because the physic '11 be stinted.' 

" * Eight,' says he, * his mother's willing. Go to 
work. I know ye of old, Jimmy; it's not everybody as 
I'd trust my boy to,' and so saying he slips ten pound 
into my hand, whilst he gives me certain instructions 
when to call for the boy and the like. 

" Well, 'twas a first-class job for me, more'n my line 
than boating, with a laugh to be got out of it tew, so 
I just tells my wife what to expect, her and me living 
alone; and then, arter laying out a pound or tew in 
certain articles proper for this here doctoring business, 
I tips one of our chaps down on the beach to get me 
certain prowisions from the wessels which were lying oflf. 
'Twas to be done by bribery and other corruptions, and 
afore noon next day I'd enough ship's grub in my house 
to last four such little 'uns as this here Tommy a fort* 
night, and perhaps three weeks, which was much longer 
than I reckoned the operation 'ud take. I took care 
that the fodder should be got out of the homeward 
bounders. There was no chance of getting such pro- 
wisions ashore. The biscuits 'ud come in new and very 
good eatin', and the joke 'ud have been a bit too 
expensive had I laid in the pork and beef that I required 
in the quantity it's sold at~I mean in casks and tierces. 
No, I got all that I wanted through my mates, and at 
a trifling cost tew, out of wessels brought up after 
middling long passages ; and a pretty collection it was, 
enough to make me thank the Lard Fd knocked off the 
calling. 

" Well, all being ready, including of a little hammock 
and a suit of oilskins, the smallest that was to be got, 



^'TEAT THERE LITTLE TOMMYS 273 

and the legs cut down at that, along with a boy's sou'- 
wester^ I went up to the gentleman's house and asted 
for little Master Tommy. I was showed in. Mr, and 
Mrs. Parkinson come to me first, and the Missis looked 
like crying, and was constantly interrupting her husband 
to beg me to be kind to her boy, to take care that he 
didn't catch cold under my treatment, and to give him 
plenty to eat, though she wasn't going to say nothen* 
against the coarseness of the wittles I might prowide. 
I wouldn't argue, for I'd catch Mr. Parkinson a vinking 
at me, which was the same as saying, * 'Tis a mother 
that's speaking to ye, Jimmy ; stow your objections, my 
lad ; it's all right.* Then little Tommy was sent for, 
and in he comes, full of excitement. He had fair hair, 
and was a pretty little lad — a bit thin perhaps, dressed 
out in knickerbockers, with a sort o' sauciness about 
him, such as comes to boys who want to make their- 
selves believe they're older than they are, and who 
think cockiness another name for manliness. Only 
t'other day I see a bit of a chap of this kind smoking a 
cegarette, and. Lard! didn't these here fingers tingle 
with the want to spank him ! 

** ' Well, sir,' says I to this here young Tommy, 
' so you're the gent, sir,' says I, * as is going to be a 
sailor ? ' 

" ' Ay,' says he, ' Jim ' — for his father called me 
Jim and so did he — * yes ; there's nothen else fit for a 
man but the sea.' 

"'All right, master Tommy,' I says, says I, 'we'll 
now tarn to and take a spell of sailorizing — ^play at 
sailor, d'ye see, without having to run any risks of going 
ashore, or keeping the pumps at it day an* night, or 
getting stranded, and lashing ourselves high aloft in 
the freezing wet ; ' and here I glances at his ma, who 



274 "^TBAT THEBE LITTLE TOMMY.'' 

tossed her hands and rolled her eyes up to the ceiling. 
' Got your bundle ready, Tommy ? * says I. 

" * Itll be sent,' says the father. 

" ' No, sir,' I says, says I ; ' excuse me,' I says, * a 
true sailor always carries his own kit along with him ; ' 
so with that a bag, containing Master Tommy's night- 
shirt and a hairbrush and the like, was brought, it 
being arranged that what .he wanted in other ways was 
to be called for. 

"Tommy had never been to my house afore, and 
though he had talked pretty cockily all the way to it, 
yet when we arrived he fell silent, and looked oncomfort- 
able. He'd been used to tall rooms and good furniture, 
d'ye see, and couldn't make nothen of a parlour that 
opened right on into a street, with a ceiling which a 
cheer would almost bring his head agin. That there 
cottage of mine was a hundred and fifty year old, and 
what with the sinking of the floors, like the slope of a 
ship's deck in a breeze of wind, and the smell of the old 
timber, and the wooden partitions like cabin bulkheads, 
with beams across the ceiling, and a dark up and down 
staircase, 'tis as good an imitation of a ship's forecastle 
to fit to the fancy of such a boy as that there little 
Tommy, as his dad could ha' struck upon. However, 
he growed more manly presently, and asted to see his 
bedroom. 

" * No bedrooms aboard ship, young 'un,' says I, 
roughly, * we don't go to bed at sea, we tarns in. Come 
you along with me,* I says, says I, talking hoarsely and 
putting on the airs of a severe bo'sun ; and with that 
I led him upstairs into a room where there was no 
carpet, nothen but a sea chest which I'd borrowed, and 
a hammock swinging from the ceiling. 

** * There,' says I, * here's where ye spend your watch 



^'TBAT TBEBE LITTLE TOMMY:* 275 

below. That's your bed, d'ye see,' says I, * and that'll 
be j'our cheer and your table,' I says, pointing to the 
chest, 'for that's how sailors eat and sleep at sea,' 
I says^ ' and there ain't no manliness to equal the 
calling.' 

"I thought he'd pipe his eye as he looked round; 
but he bit his little lip, arter a stare at the hammock, 
and saidnothen. 

*' ' Now, then,' says I wiolently, * oflf with your coat 
and boots, my lad ; whip off them stockings. We've got 
a wash-down job afore us.' 

" He did as he was told, but was a bit long in doing 
of it, on which I thundered at him, telling him that if 
he was at sea he'd be rope's ended for not bearing a 
hand. 

" ' Do it hurt ? * he says. 

" ' Ay, more'n hurt,' says I, ' it stings. Quick now, 
or I shall have to let ye know what it*s like.' 

** Well, I took him downstairs into the kitchen, and 
arter telling my missis to clear out I put a scrubbing 
brush into his hands and took a bucket o' water and set 
him a-scrubbing. It went agin the grain, sir, to see the 
little blue-eyed, thin-legged chap heaving away with 
a brush that was nigh twice as tall as he, but I says to 
myself, ' He's ashore anyhow. 'Tis but a play lesson. 
His mother's within hail of him, and since I'm to be 
his schoolmaster I must do my duty.' Well, I splashed 
the water about, calling out to him to scrub smartly all 
in proper sea fashion, and when the job was over we 
made it eight bells and went to dinner. My old woman 
had cooked him some ship's peasoup an* pork, a-making 
the soup under my directions as they make it at sea. 
Our own dinner was a piece o' roast mutton, with greens 
and •taters, 'spressly prowided for the tantalization of 



276 ''THAT THERE LITTLE TOMMY,"* 

the smell. I was far roast pork, but my missis says 
that roast mutton 'ud show better and smell more 
savoury agin the wittles the boy was to have, and so I 
consented. He wouldn't eat. 

" * Not seasick, are ye ? ' says I. 

" * I don't like it,' he says ; ' can't I go home and 
get my dinner ? * he says. 

** * Go home f * I says, ' why,' says I, ' don't ye know 
that you're in the middle of the ocean ? A sailor's 
home's his fork'sle. When ye get's ashore, my lad, ye 
shall have roast mutton and wegetables,' says I, smack- 
ing my lips with a sort of look of * ain't it good ? * in my 
eyes as I stared at the mutton ; * but whilst you're at 
sea you must eat the ship's allowance ; so fall tew, d'ye 
hear ? ' 

** But I couldn't wonder at his not eating. We'd put 
some wood to soak in the fresh water we gave him to 
drink, and the flavey lay strong in his pannikin. The 
pork was mainly brine, and what was over ye might 
fairly call smell. The biscuit was broken, soft, and 
honeycombed, and I told him to beat it on the table 
afore putting it into his mouth, that if there was worms 
in it they might drop out. The soup was a thin yaller, 
greasy liquor. The peas in it was like the shingle off 
the beach. 

" * Is this the sort of food they gives to sailors ? ' 
says he. 

" ' Yes,' says I. * And what choicer eating could a 
feller with the feelings of a man ask for ? 'Taint all 
soup and pork ; there's a beautiful wariety a-going at 
sea. To-morrow'll be salt beef and duflf, and the day 
arter a lovely mess, what's known amongst seafaring 
men as soap and bullion. Why, ye ain't made no dinner 
at all. Master Tommy.' 



•"TEAT THELE LITTLE TOMMir 277 

" * No, and I don't want none/ says he, recoiling- 
like from the steam of the pork — small blame to him ! 
The missis and I had currant dumplings for pudden, 
and the poor little chap eyed *em with a starving gaze. 
The missis looked at me, but I steeled my 'art. 

'* * No,' I says to myself, * If this ere physic's to do 
the little 'un good it mustn't be sweetened.' 

"Well, that artemoon I put him to a number of 
small jobs. There was a yard at the back of our 
cottage, and I stretched a rope along it and made him 
tar it, rig'larly obliged him to shove his little white 
hand into a tar bucket. 

" * It's all hands on deck, ye know,' says I, ' aboard 
this wessel from eight bells in the morning down to 
eight bells in the arternoon watch ; so ye must keep all 
on at it.' 

** And when his tarring was done I made him clean a 
brass binnacle-hood that I'd borrowed, and then I put 
him to sandpapering an oar, and so on till it come time 
for tea or * supper,' as I called it, to this here Tommy. 
Well, his supper, which I told him to eat hearty of, as 
there would be nothen' more to follow, consisted of 
ship's tea, that made a black liquor in which the missis 
left all the stalks and roots, sweetened with a dose of 
foot sugar, along with the biscuit that had been sarved 
to him at dinner. I told him, as he'd not eaten his 
allowance of pork, he might have it for his supper ; but 
he answered that the smell of it made him feel ill. He 
drank a little of the tea, making ugly faces, and now, 
being sharp-set, contrived to swaller a few bits of 
ship's bread, but the way in which he watched the 
brown bread and butter and the cups of corfee which 
me and the missis was making our tea off was down- 
right affecting. 



278 <^TEAT THERE LITTLE TOMMY.** 

" * Now, ye see,' says I, ' how well looked arter sailors 
are when they goes to sea in the matter of prowisions. 
Ain't it a manly calling, just ! My eye ! It*s growed 
almost too manly for Englishmen, and the foreigner's 
fast squeezing of us all out. So, Master Tommy, arter 
your father's paid for the priwelege of your eating such 
lovely food as I've put afore 'ee to-day, and arter you're 
gone near to break your heart with the work they'll put 
upon ye without paying you the worth of a farden's 
worth of silver spoons for it, then, when your time's out, 
they'll kick ye ashore that you may make way for the 
blooming foreigner as'U be glad to take your place for 
half the money ye ask. Oh, but ain't it a manly life, 
though ! My eye ! ' 

" Well, I told him he might turn in when it came 
eight o'clock. I showed him how to get into his ham- 
mock, but made him keep on his knickerbockers, ' For,' 
says I, 'it looks dirty weather, and it may be "all 
hands " presently.' 

*'He asked for sheets. 

" ' Pooh ! ' I says, says I, * there ain't no sheets at 
sea. Hain't ye got a good blanket up there? That's 
all the sheets a sailor wants.' 

** Well, I left him, and waited till I thought he was 
fast asleep, and then, running into his room, it being 
about half-past ten o'clock at night, I blew an old whistle 
that was mine when I was bo'sun's mate, stamping 
heavily with both feet whilst I piped, and then roared 
out at the top of my woice, * All hands reef topsails ! 
bear a hand, my livelies, afore she turns turtle ! ' and 
with that I thumped at the hammock. 

" * What am I to do ? ' sings out the poor little chap. 

" ' Tumble up, tumble up ! * I yells out. ' There's 
a whole gale o' wind busted upon us.' 



^TUAT THERE LITTLE TOMMY." 279 

*' Well, he gets up, and I shan't forget the sight of 
his little legs over the edge of the hammock, I bawling 
to him to beur a hand all the time, helping him without 
appearing to do so by bringing his shoes to him, and 
then making him wrop hisself up in his oilskins ; and 
then, pretending to be in a fearful hurry as though we 
was in a sittivation of awful danger, I rushes him out 
into the back yard. As luck would have^it, it was really 
blowing fresh, but not cold, with a teasing drizzle of 
rain in squalls. 

" * There,' says I, * we'll imagine ye've been aloft, 
and now your watch on deck's come round, and ye ain't 
to go to bed again for four hours. So tarn too, my 
lively, and pace this 'ere deck to keep yourself warm, 
and when my watch comes round 1*11 relieve ye.' And 
with that I left him. 

" Well, sir," said my nautical friend, as he finished 
his beer, " it 'ud take me all day long to tell you how 
I handled that there little Tommy. 'Twas on a Toosday 
that I fetched him, and he hung out till Friday, and 
then coming home from a herrand I asted my missis 
where the boy was, and she said he was a-missing. I 
sot down and laughed, knowing how it was, for I'd seen 
it in his face ever since Wednesday, when the duflf came 
up for his dinner, along with a bit of salt horse the old 
woman had biled for him ; and, sure enough, two hours 
arterwards comes Mr. Parkinson, a-smiling all down 
his back. 

** * Jimmy,' says he, ' I allow ye*ve done it this 
time, my boy. Little Tommy's come home and's been 
a-crying like a babby to his mother, and says that he 
don't see no more manliness left in the sea, and would 
rather be a clown or an engine-driver than a hadmiral.' " 

**And so," said I to my nautical friend, "the lad 



280 **THAT THERE LITTLE TOMMY. 

was really cured, effectually cured, of his desire to be 
a sailor ? *' 

He looked at me with a grin. 

** So much cured, sir," he answered, *' that it was 
only the day before yesterday that he came up to me 
as I was standing on the beach, and arter making him- 
self beknown— for he was growed so, and so coloured 
with the sun th«t I should never have recognized him — 
he says to me, * Let me see, Jimmy ; it*s four year ago 
now, I think, since I was aboard your cottage. It wasn't 
fair, Jim. The life's better nor your dam messes and 
backyard. I'm just home from 'Frisco, and tell *ee 
what, Jim, the life may be as hard as you told me it 
was, and p'r'aps harder ; but I ain't disappointed in the 
manliness of it, and, spite of its puddens, and its soap 
and bullion, I'd rather be a sailor than a boatman. 
Here, you old villain,' he says, giving me five shillings, 
' go and drink my health,' he says, says he, * and wish 
my ship a speedy woyage, for I'm bound away to New 
Zealand in three weeks, and I'll tell ye more about it 
when I comes home next time. Cure him ! " continued 
my nautical friend, with a face of disgust. "No, by 
the piper! and who wanted to? Cure an English lad 
of his taste for the sea ! It'll be good night to Britannia 
as is the pride of the hocean when thafs to be done, sir." 



A LUMINOUS SAILOR. 

A WILD old crimp story still lingers in the memory of 
nautical men ; but there is an odd sequel to it known to 
a few only. Elderly seamen would date the occurrence 
1858, one year before the introduction of the Merchant 
Shipping Act ; but there is little doubt that it belongs to 
an earlier time than that. The Yankees fasten the tale 
upon the English; the English, it is needless to say, 
strenuously decline the compliment. For my part, 
having regard to the character of the American crimp, 
I have not the least imaginable doubt that the rightful 
birthplace of the story is New York. 

An old-fashioned wooden ship, with a big, gloomy, 
topgallant forecastle, as that sort of structure is called, 
corresponding with ah elevation aft named the poop, was 
lying alongside a New York wharf, the people aboard in 
the act of casting the fasts adrift, that she might start 
on a voyage to Liverpool. The scene was a lively one ; 
drunken sailors bawling, the mate shouting, loafers on 
the wharf calling to the crew as they lurched drunkenly 
into the ship. A little procession was noticed coming 
along. It consisted of a number of men bearing three 
sailors who were hopelessly and entirely dead drunk. 
The spectacle was a disgusting one, but it was some- 
thing manifestly familiar to the onlookers, whose care- 
less glances and half grins illustrated the indifference 



282 A LUMINOUS SAILOR. 

that is bred of custom. One of these drunken men's 
faces the crimps had been considerate enough to conceal 
with a shawl or handkerchief ; the other two were exposed, 
and one might have imagined from their aspect that 
they had died of some pestilence that permitted no time 
for the construction of a coffin, and that they were about 
to be plunged, habited as they were, into a pit on top of 
others who had similarly perished. These three men, 
however, were a portion of the crew of the ship. They 
were only a little more drunk than the rest who had 
reeled on board, and certainly not more useless. 

The captain on the quarter-deck eyed the procession 
grimly and askant, as it wended its way from the gang- 
way to the forecastle and disappeared past the shadow 
of the windlass. Possibly he was too accustomed to 
such sights as this to trouble himself with any sort of 
moralizing on Jack and his habits. His ship wanted 
men; and so long as his forecastle was duly filled he 
had no need to concern himself on the method adopted 
for furnishing it. In the old days of the press-gang it 
was all the same to the captain of a man-of-war whether 
the fellows who were brought aboard arrived drunk or 
sober. A few hours would clear the atmospheio of the 
*tweendecks, and there was the discipline of the rattan 
and the cat and the grating to round oif all that needed 
doing. So the eye of our Yankee skipper would in- 
stinctively glance from his forecastle into which his 
crew were drunkenly rolling or being carried, to the 
nearest iron belaying-pin or to the figure of the giant 
chief mate roaring to a lumper below with the notes of 
a gale of wind. Some of the fellows whom the crimp 
had brought along with him might not have shaken all 
the hayseed out of their hair yet, but there were combs 
enough abroad for the clearance and smoothing of even 



A LUMINOUS SAILOR. 283 

rougher tresses than theirs in the shape of revolvers, 
crows, handspikes, and the like, and oar Yankee master 
mariner therefore could find much even in a few moments 
of reflection to console him for the sight of his drugged 
and drunken ship's company hiccoughing and blasphem- 
ing and disappearing in the gloom forward under the 
overhanging break of the dark, cavernous sea-parlour in 
the bows. 

Some of these noble and lively hearties fell down on 
entering the forecastle, and snored away their distemper 
of boarding-house whiskey on their backs upon the 
planks; others rolled into their bunks, where they in- 
stantly fell asleep. The dismal procession deposited its 
hideous, pitiful burden — a touching illustration of Jack's 
notions of enjoying himself ashore. Two of the insen- 
sible men were flung into bunks and left to lie in the 
first posture their drug-paralyzed limbs took up. In the 
bestowal of the third some little care was taken. A 
bunk was found for him right in the eyes of the vessel, 
that is to say in the foremost bedplace in the forecastle, 
where the gloom was scarcely touched by the light fall- 
ing through the scuttle and fathoms out of the reach 
of the penetrating powers of the smoky flame of the 
melancholy little slush lamp. With undertaker-like 
caution the crimp and his assistants laid this drunken 
seaman down, smoothing his legs along, adjusting his 
arms to an easy attitude of slumber, turning his face 
to the ship's side, and snugging him with a blanket, till 
nothing was to be seen of him but his yellow hair. They 
then quietly withdrew, and shortly afterwards the ship, 
worked by such few hands as were equal to laying aloft 
and pulling and hauling, got under weigh and proceeded 
on her voyage. 

The drunken men were left undisturbed during the 



284 A LUmNOVS 8AIL0B. 

afternoon. As one by one they recovered from their 
stupor, they mounted on deck, tremblings sodden, 
horribly miserable, their heads racked with the anguish 
of the poison of that last bottle they had been tempted 
to drain. But Yankee skippers and giant mates are 
people' of sensibilities not to be very readily moved by 
the trembling legs and aching brows of seamen newly 
recovered from a debauch. As the men appeared they 
were promptly ** turned to " to the tune of many choice 
sea blessings showered upon their eyes and other parts. 
The three sailors, however, who had formed a detail 
of the procession remained insensible in their bunks. 
The drug they were under the spell of rendered them 
insensible to the thunder of the giant mate*s summons 
to come forth and steer and climb the masts, and fulfil 
the many various duties of the mariner. There was 
nothing for it but to let them lie. But at midnight one 
of them awoke, and turned out in a dazed sleep-walking 
way, and went on deck, where he was shortly after- 
wards knocked down by the second mate for failing to 
catch some order that had been hastily given to him. 
Then a little later on there followed a tragedy. The 
watch below were startled by a piercing scream, a wild 
and terrible cry that the Day of Judgment had arrived, 
that the forecastle was full of rats who would eat 
them all up, so that, when the trumpet sounded, no 
man would be able to appear save in the form of a 
rat, which would result in his utter perdition ! — shriek- 
ing which the second of the three insensible men shot 
from his bunk, fled on deck, and jumped overboard. 
It was not known that he had done this until search 
had been made for him, and the captain, fearing the 
loss of another man from a similiar cause, gave orders 
that the third fellow, lying still motionless in his bunk 



A LUMINOUS SAILOR. 285 

right forward, should be left undisturbed^ that nature 
might bring him to in her own way. 

It was at eight bells in the first watch the next 
night that the men going below to turn in smelt an 
evil smell. A grim old salt sniffing around exclaimed 
that some of the rats, which the fellow had yelled out 
about on the previous night, must have died of fright 
at his cry and gone bad. Pugh! what was it? All 
hands fell to sniflf-snuffliog. Was there anything wrong 
with the cargo in the forehold ? 

*' Here's the cause of it, mates ! " suddenly exclaimed 
one of the sailors, going to the bunk in which the third 
man lay insensible; and, plucking the fellow's arm 
from under the blanket, he lifted and let it fall, when 
it swung up and down like a pump handle. " Dead," 
he cried, ** or my eyes ain't mates." 

The rest of them come pushing together to look. 
To enable them to see, one of them struck a lucifer 
match, and held the flame close to the dead man's face, 
whereupon a thin vein of greenish fire spouted out of 
the lips of the corpse, and in a breath the whole of 
his face was acrawl with lambent spirituous flames. 
Instantly the fellow who held the match let it fall with 
a cry. The sight of the burning body amid the gloom 
lying heavy in that part of the forecastle was inexpres- 
sibly terrible. For a minute the seamen looked on and 
then fled, uttering cries of horror. The uproar attracted 
the attention of the mate, who came forward halloaing 
to know what the noise was about. He was told that 
there was the dead body of a sailor burning in the 
forecastle. 

" Burning ! " he exclaimed scornfully, and entered 
the place, followed by two or three of the men ; but on 
catching sight of the figure luminous with the flames, 

19 



286 A LUMINOUS SAILOR, 

whose lustre exhibited the pinched and gaping features 
of the corpse, just as one might witness objects floating 
on the surface of burning brandy, he came to a stand, 
giant as he was, with a groan of horror. The delicate 
creeping of the faint blue flames made the dreadful face 
seem to be grinning at the ship's side at which it stared, 
with a struggle of the drawn lips to gibber out a fancy- 
that should correspond with the look in that horrible 
countenance. The mate rallied* ''This must be cleared 
out," cried he, " lend us a hand here." They smothered 
the body in a blanket, carried it on deck, and hove it 
overboard. 

In due course the ship arrived at Liverpool. The 
impression that had been created by this tragic incident 
upon the sailors had long before faded off their reckless, 
easy-going minds. It was then the practice of American 
vessels to board their crews out whilst lying at Liver- 
pool, and the men of this particular ship, in talking of 
the voyage with the strangers they met, mentioned the 
affair of the sailor catching fire and slowly burning up 
out of the spirituous leakage of his pores. In this way 
the story got abroad, but in those days there were much 
darker wonders than this happening on board ship, 
and the hideous incident apparently gained but little 
attention. 

The vessel, having discharged her cargo, loaded for 
a South American port. Shortly before she sailed three 
of the old crew deserted, and their place was supplied 
by new men. One of these fellows, on hearing the 
story of the burning sailor, declared that, had he known 
such a thing had happened aboard the vessel, he would 
never have shipped in her. He told several stories of 
haunted ships, and exhibited so much uneasiness when 
below in the forecastle at night that his fears begot a 



A LUMINOUS SAILOH. 287 

like alarm amongst the others, in spite of the early 
impression having been almost effaced. One night this 
fellow, who was at the wheel, called to the second mate, 
who had returned to the quarter-deck from forward, 
and said that he had seen a figure of a man, shining 
like phosphorescent water, come up out of the com- 
panion hatch and walk overboard. The second mate, 
a lean and yellow Yankee, hove a curse at him for 
carrying more eyes in his head than he had need of ; 
but the man's earnestness nevertheless had produced 
an effect, and the officer presently looked down the 
skylight, then entered the cabin, then returned, and 
hung about the wheel with a certain uneasiness in his 
manner. 

However, the sailor reported the spectre to his mates 
when he got forward. He described the apparition very 
graphically — ^represented it as a yellow-haired man in 
a check shirt and dungaree trousers, his breast bare 
and on fire, his features thin, a yellow goatee on his 
chin, and his lean and ghastly countenance grinning 
and writhing, as it were, to the creeping of the pale 
blue fiames. The sailors recognized the likeness at 
once ; their uneasiness was deepened ; they hung about 
in couples during the night watches, and it came to 
their always going aloft in twos — for such light work, 
I mean, as loosing a royal or topgallant sail. 

This went on till the ship was in the tropics, by 
which time the superstitious sailor had ended in per- 
suading most of the men that the vessel was haunted 
by the luminous ghost of the burning body they had 
hove overboard. 

One night was very quiet and dark, a mere fanning 
of air blowing over the taff-rail, the stars few and 
making no light, and the ocean spreading into the black* 



288 A LUMINOUS SAILOR. 

ness of the horizon dark and ungleaming as polished 
ebony. It was seven bells — half-past eleven in the first 
watch. The second mate was in charge of the deck^ 
and was stamping the planks by the gangway, whilst 
the captain, who had come up for the cool of the night 
half an horn* before, stood near the binnacle smoking a 
cigar. 

All on a sudden a most unearthly shriek sounded 
forward. The men who were nodding about the decks 
sprang to their feet ; the cry was repeated, a wild, most 
ear-piercing note of torment and terror, and a moment 
after there was a rush of figures out of the forecastle — 
the whole of the watch below, in fact, who streamed out 
like a troop of lunatics suddenly enlarged. 

What was it ? 

Some of them gasped out that the crimp's dead man 
was sitting all on fire in his bunk in the bows. It was 
he that had uttered the horrible cry, and at sight of the 
Boul-subduing apparition the stoutest had bundled out 
of their beds and bolted. The captain called to the 
second mate to accompany him forward to view the 
spectre ; but ere the couple had progressed a dozen paces 
the figure of a man, naked to the waist, his breast, 
arms, and face shining like a corposant, rose out of the 
hatch in the forecastle deck, and, walking, or rather 
floating as it seemed, to the fore rigging, mounted the 
shrouds. 

The sight was stupefying. Captain and second mate 
came to a halt, as though blasted by a stroke of light- 
ning, and there they stood, with the rest of the ship's 
company, staring with open mouths and glistening 
brows, amidst a deep silence, at the luminous figure 
that rose from ratline to ratline, as though it soared. 
Presently, climbing over the futtock shrouds, where, 



A LUMINOUS SAILOR. 289 

as the spectral thing lay .backwards to the angle of the 
irons, it showed against the blackness a most clearly 
limned configuration of the upper half of a human shape, 
as though drawn with a brush dipped in phosphorus, it 
gained the top, as the platform at the head of the lower 
mast is called, and disappeared. 

That this was the ghost of the crimp's dead seaman 
no living man aboard that ship, from the captain down 
to the youngest boy, could for an instant doubt. The 
master and mates shared the terrors of the men ; the 
seamen refused to occupy the forecastle, and the watch 
off duty was allowed to lie in the state cabin at night. 
The sailors were almost too frightened to do the neces- 
sary ship's work, and from the date of the apparition 
the master regularly kept the vessel under small canvas 
after sundown to lighten the obligation of going aloft 
during the darkness. 

On their arrival at Rio the whole of the crew deserted, 
and both mates followed in their tail, swearing that 
nothing should ever prevail upon them to sail in company 
with the devil. Whether the captain managed to obtain 
a fresh crew I do not know. 

It was long before the true story of the apparition 
of the burning sailor was made known, and then it was 
delivered as a hospital yarn by a sailor lying sick and 
dying of consumption. He said that he was one of the 
three fresh hands that had been shipped at Liverpool. 
He had heard all about the crimp's dead sailor before 
he had joined the vessel, and made up his mind to 
play a wild practical joke. He provided himself with a 
quantity of phosphorus, and, grasping the double oppor- 
tunity of the warm weather and of his mates snoring in 
their bunks, he stripped to the waist, coated his chest 
and face and arms with the luminous stuff, and, seating 



290 A LUMINOUS SAILOR. 

himself in the bunk that had been occupied by the dead 
man, he uttered the terrifying howl which had been 
heard on the quarter-deck, satisfied by the state of mind 
to which he had reduced his mates by his previous talk, 
that in no way could he better summon the sleepers to 
awaken to the spectacle he had prepared for them. He 
had reckoned upon their flight, and having emptied the 
forecastle, he mounted through the scuttle, and ascended 
the rigging to the top, where he had placed his shirt 
and cap. By dressing himself he concealed his glitter- 
ing skin, and then very swiftly he descended to the deck, 
hand over hand, by the foretopsail sheets or some such 
gear before the mast there, whence he sneaked unobserved 
into the port forechains, where he lingered till he had 
cleansed himself of his fiery appearance. The general 
consternation had been so great that no one noticed his 
absence, whilst, all eyes being directed aloft, his passage 
across the deck to the channels had been unobserved. 

But long before this confession was made, it had 
been discovered that the fellow, whom the crimp at 
New York had smuggled aboard as a drunken man, was 
dead when he was brought to the ship, that the crimp 
knew he was dead, and that his object in conveying the 
corpse to the vessel was to obtain the sailor's advance- 
money. 



SPANISH ARMADA* 

As the curtain of memory rises upon the most majestic, 
if not the most glorious, of the conflicts in all maritime 
history, the very first scene disclosed is hardly less note- 
worthy than the most impressive of the features of the 
mighty marine piece. It is a clear summer night ; the 
stars are bright, and spangle the fine liquid dusk down 
to the sea-line ; but in the far east there is the green 
faintness of the lunar dawn, and the black line of the 
rolling horizon stands out against it as though wrought 
by the sweep of a brush steeped in India ink. A pinnace 
of those days, a little sailing craft of some hundred tons, 
let us call it, is buzzing through the dark waters, with 
her head east-north-east for Plymouth town. She is a 
piratical craft, with the Jolly Eoger for her bunting, 
and is commanded by Master Thomas Fleming, a hardy 
Scotsman. He is short of victuals and water, and his 
ship besides has been somewhat roughly handled by 
successive gales of wind; so he is homeward bound, 
after a tedious and idle filibustering cruise. But it is for 
something more than the mere design of filling his casks 
and re-stocking his tierces that he is speeding for the 
English coast under every press of cloth he can spread 
abroad. For it is only just now that, whilst standing 
near the tiller looking to windward, with the weatherly 
eye of a sailor ever on the watch for a change, he took 

* A commemorative paper, Daily Telegraph, June, 1888. 



2D2 SPANISH ABMADA. 

notice of a blot of blackness making a deeper dye upon 
the shadow of the night far down in the south. And 
away past it ho descried such another blotch, and yet 
another and another still, and so on through a range of 
hard upon two leagues of seaboard; showing, all of 
them, hke the shoulders of black clouds lifting slowly to 
the stars, with a compacted mass of vapour to follow. 

But Fleming was bom in a land that breeds the 
finest race of sailors in the world, besides having served 
a long apprenticeship to the business of keeping a 
bright look-out for prizes. It was impossible he could 
be mistaken. Every instinct of the mariner in him 
gave him warning; indeed, it was in full cry at a breath. 
'Twas the Spaniard coming, by Our Lady! Those dusky 
loomings were ships, and nothing else. They were 
the swelling canvas pf the mighty galleons and huge 
carracks of the Don. So it was " crack on all " with 
the pirate, and **buzz away" with him to Plymouth 
town to give the news, as nimbly as ever the soft summer 
night-wind could blow his little round-bowed craft along. 
The mere fancy of the fate of England hanging upon 
that small craft, swinging her quaint form over the long 
swells of the Atlantic rolling northwards to the narrow 
seas, should make a man hold his breath, even three hun- 
dred years afterwards, for a moment, as he thinks how 
it might have been with this tight little island but for 
the alertness of that piratical, patriotic old Scotsman, 
willing to heave overboard all sulky prejudice against 
England, all sullen resentment over the beheading of 
Queen Mary, at sight of yonder dusky challenge to his 
heart as a Briton. England lay sleeping restfully after 
months of bitter disquiet. Master Thomas Fleming knew 
that. His own suspicions had been lulled, though he had 
hung much about the Spanish seaboard. The mighty 



SPANISH ARMADA. 293 

fleet had sailed from the Tagus ; but the news of its 
having been dispersed by a tempest that had wrecked 
three of the Portuguese galleys, dismasted eight of the 
bigger ships, and forced the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, 
with such as were visible of his Armada clinging to his 
skirts, into the Bay of Corunna, there to refresh and to 
ship more soldiers, was already old. Fleming, picking 
up the gossip, as he cruised here and there, knew that 
the British High Admiral, the Lord Charles Howard, 
had received her Majesty's commands to send four of 
her tallest and strongest ships to Chatham for repairs 
and re-equipment, as it was the Queen's belief that the 
Spanish fleet had no present intention of putting to sea. 
The pirate was also aware that many of the British 
ships lying at Plymouth were in a partially dismantled 
condition, the crews ashore, sails unbent, rigging un- 
rove; and that the fate of the nation was sealed, if 
the stems of the Don's mighty galleons struck our 
English home-waters before the noble Howard could be 
apprised of the enemy's approach. This wonderful 
passage of our national story grows confused presently 
with the intermingling of contending vessels, disjointed 
murderous struggles, the flames of fire ships, the rage 
of battle slowly trending, .like a pall of gunpowder 
smoke, from abreast of the Start to the white terraces 
of the Forelands. But that incident of Fleming, that 
detail of his little pinnace seeming to yearn, in her 
swelling canvas, with the same wild longing to make 
haste that animated the spirit of the pirate, stands 
out bright and sharp in its isolation. One sees the 
figure of the man, in slouched hat, short cloak, belted 
doublet, jack boots, spiked beard, and moustachios 
curled upon his cheeks, standing at the rail of his 
humming craft, and sending a falcon glance under the 



291 SPANISH ABMADA. 

sharp of his hand into the southern dusk, where the 
loom of a hundred dark shadows break the continuity of 
the sea-line there. 

It was at four o'clock in the afternoon on July 19, 
according to the old writers, that Master Thomas 
Fleming, being arrived at Plymouth Sound, rowed to 
the Lord High Admiral and told him that the Spaniard 
was close aboard, sailing large under towers of canvas, 
a vast, incredible multitude of him. It is three himdred 
years ago, but the variations of human nature are as 
the polaric changes of the compass, slow, with a stead- 
fast recurrence to the old bearings ; and nothing is 
easier than to imagine to-day what the feeling then 
was when Fleming delivered his report. There is an 
old story of Sir Francis Drake leisurely completing his 
game of bowls, after a glance of indifference seawards. 
It is a good tale for the marines. There is no illus- 
tration in all naval history that so gloriously expressed 
the English seaman's genius of promptitude as the 
despatch Howard and his men exhibited in making ready 
to prepare for sea and confront the enemy. A large 
number of the sailors and soldiers belonging to the 
Royal ships were ashore, as Fleming had heard ; yet 
before darkness had settled down that same night the 
admiral was lying ready with six ships, waiting for the 
morning to break for others to join him. They arrived 
in twos and threes, and assuredly not one moment too 
soon ; for at midday the Armada hove into view, 
whitening in a crescent seven miles of sea with its 
flowing canvas, and glorifying the blue of the sky 
beyond it with the radiance of fluttering pennons. The 
enemy's strength was well known. It had been circu- 
lated long before in printed copies, doubtless with the 
intention of paralyzing the spirit of the English. The 



SPANISH ARMADA. 295 

description had been dated May 20, and subsequent 
gales of wind had scarcely rendered its modification 
needful. The Happy Armada then, as it was styled, 
consisted of 180 ships, expressing an aggregate of close 
upon 58,000 tons. It was manned by over 19,000 
soldiers, 8450 marines, above 2000 slaves, and armed 
with 2,680 pieces of cannon. The tenders to this fleet, 
loaded to their ways with a prodigious quantity of 
arms and ammunition, formed of themselves a consider- 
able armada besides. In addition to the soldiers and 
sailors there were upwards of 180 monks of several 
orders, together with 124 volunteers, who represented 
the noblest blood in old Spain. It is impossible out of 
mere figures to collect even a poor notion of dimensions, 
of aspect, of the hundred formidable elements which 
went to the composition of the vast unwieldy structures 
of this enormous fleet. There were several fifty-gun 
ships. Don Pedro de Yaldez's vessel was of 1550 tons 
burden, carried 804 fighting men, besides 118 sailors. 
There were pinnaces that rose to the burden of 876 
tons. The Saint Martin, the galleon commanded by 
the Captain-General, was of 1000 tons. There were 
huge galleasses besides, armed each with fifty pieces 
of cannon, and manned by an army of soldiers and 
sailors. One obtains some idea of their bulk on reading 
that '' they contained within them chamberSf, chapels, 
turrets, pulpits, and other commodities of great houses." 
They were propelled with oars by 800 slaves, and, in 
common with most of the other vessels of Portugal, 
Biscay, Andalusia, Gastille, and the contributory pro- 
vinces, they were '* furnished and beautified with 
trumpets, streamers, banners, warlike ensigns, and other 
such-like ornaments.'* 

It was hardly guessed yet, perhaps, by the crowds 



296 SPANISH ARMADA. 

who viewed that vast floating crescent of white cloths 
and shining banners from the Devon and Cornwall 
heights that, but for the blundering of its pilots, by 
which the Lizard had been mistaken for Bame*s Head, 
Plymouth Sound would even on the yester eve have 
been crowded with those cathedral-like galleons, whilst 
the shining armour and gaudy raiment of His Most 
Catholic Majesty's troops would have gleamed on the 
rise of the inland moor, or glittered betwixt the hedge- 
rows of the fair summer country. The spectator, to 
have found heart, must have needed the deepest and 
most enthusiastic faith in the courage of the English 
seaman when, from some Plymouth eminence, he 
carried his eye from the slender squadron just outside 
the harbour to the immense flotilla whose south- 
easternmost wing showed in dim dashes of light 
against the blue of the horizon, so wide apart were the 
horns of this unparalleled arc. Yet one may say, with 
all memory strong in one of such men as Eenbow, 
Blake, Howe, Nelson, that never did British-built struc- 
tures hold so valiant and noble a company of English 
sailors as those who chased, fought, harassed, and 
defeated the Don during those nine subsequent days 
of thunderous conflict. Sir William Monson, who was 
eighteen years of age in 1588, and who served, it is 
said, as a common sailor aboard the Charles, a pinnace 
that was engaged in the great fight, tells us that when 
even the whole resources of the country had come to 
the help of her mariners there was not above 120 sail 
of men-of-war to encounter that Invincible Armada, 
and not above five of them all, except the largest of 
the Boyal ships, which were of 200 tons burden. It 
was our seamen, he says, who by their experience and 
courage were the cause of our victories ; not the ships, 



SPANISH ARMADA. 297 

though elsewhere in his admirable " Naval Tracts " this 
fine old admiral says that, big as the Spanish galleons 
were, he would rather have fought them in a vessel of 
200 tons, manned by a crew of 100 Englishmen, than 
in the biggest of the galleons have engaged the same 
Englishmen with a company under him of 1000 Spanish 
soldiers and sailors. One needs but glance at the flags 
flying from the British mastheads to comprehend the 
certainty of the issue. The pious chroniclers of those 
times attribute a great deal to the weather; but it is 
not too much to say that neither the glorious First of 
June nor Trafalgar itself exhibits instances of fiercer 
fighting than does this three hundred year old nine days' 
rage of battle. Charles Howard, of the ducal house of 
Norfolk, was the Lord High Admiral. The scientific dis- 
cipline of modem times renders the strategic manoeuvres 
of this noble gentleman somewhat primitive, but no 
sailor who narrowly follows the movements of the 
English in this series of engagements but must recog- 
nize in Charles Howard as fine an expression of naval 
genius, as remarkable a combination of every quality 
which enters into the composition of a great admiral as 
our maritime annals anywhere offer. Sir Francis Drake 
was next in command, still bronzed by the suns of the 
Pacific Ocean, whose mysterious solitudes he was the 
first Englishman to penetrate. His name alone was 
worth a score of galleons in its terror-striking influence 
over the Spanish spirit. Fresh from his easy and 
cheerful burning of 10,000 tons of shipping at Cadiz, 
he might be one of the few commanders over whom 
floated the English colours who could contemplate the 
result of the approaching strife without the least stir 
of uneasiness or misgiving. There was Martin Fro- 
bisher, again, the hardiest of Yorkshiremen, the most 



298 SPANISH ARMADA, 

intrepid of seamen, with a body toughened to the in- 
flexibility of his spirit by the Arctic blasts that had 
obstructed his exploration for the North-West Passage. 
There was the lion-hearted Edward Fenton, who had been 
captain of the Gabriel in Frobisher's expedition, and 
who had studied the secrets of his profession, not under 
the comfortable shining of Spanish suns, but amidst 
the wild ice-plains of the north and the high surge 
and desperate gales of the Norwegian heights. There 
was John Hawkins, he who had fired upon the Spanish 
admiral, who was to bring Ann of Austria from Flanders, 
for endeavouring to sneak out of Gattwater without 
saluting the symbol of Britannia's domination of the 
deep ; the hero of the amazing, if disastrous, expedition 
of the Jesus of Luhecky and, after Drake, the most famous 
seaman of his age. There were many other renowned 
and .capable men, but the list is too long to exhaust. 

It is pleasant to follow Sir William Monson in his 
brief reference to this famous Armada battle. The mere 
feeling that he bore a part in the tremendous conflict, 
young as he was, causes one to read his obscure page as 
though he were some ancient survivor of the heroic 
company talking to us out of his armchair about what 
he saw and did; You get the same feeling in reading 
Emanuel van Meteran's relation of the fight in the 
black letter copy of **Hackluyt," printed in 1698 — ten 
years afterwards; as fresh almost as a newspaper 
version of a battle two days* old in these times, so slow 
were people's movements then as compared with our 
activity. The Ark Royal carried the admiral's flag; 
Drake commanded the Revenge, Hawkins the Victory, 
Lord Thomas Howard the Lyon, Lord Sheffield the Bear, 
Sir Bobert Southwell the Elizabeth Jones, Frobisher the 
Triumph. The Hope, the Bonaventure, the Dreadnaught, 



SPANISH ARMADA, 209 

the NonpareiUe, the Swiftsure, the Rainbow y the Vaunt- 
guardy the Mary Rose were the names of others. There 
were hesides the Norify the Spy, the Moon, the Charles, 
the BitZZ, the ^Scowf, the Tyger, the Swallow, with a few 
more of the smaller fry. Historic names go to the 
commanding even of these lesser craft, such as Lord 
Henry Seymour, Fenner, Cross, Eichard Hawkins, the 
two Wentworths, Fenton, Clifford, and others. Later on 
the English fleet was reinforced by privately equipped 
ships, " in which number," says the black letter account, 
*' there were many great and honourable personages, as 
— ^namely, the Earles of Oxford, of Northumberland, of 
Cumberland, etc., with many knights and gentlemen : 
to wit. Sir Thomas Cecill, Sir Eobert Cecill, Sir Walter 
Baleigh, Sir William Hatton," and some scores besides. 
All England indeed flocked seawards. Upon the South 
Coast were cantoned 20,000 men ; an army of 22,000 
foot and 1000 horse was encamped near Tilbury, and 
for the guarding of the Queen's person was a third army 
of 82,000 foot and 4000 horse, all picked men. 

In this age of colossal ordnance, it is perhaps ex- 
cusable to recur somewhat slightingly to the primitive 
death-smiting engines of three hundred years ago. But 
do not let us suppose for a moment that the genius 
of murder was not horribly consummate in its way 
even in those days. Conflicts meant a species of 
butchery which the world is happy in regarding as one 
of the lost arts. The largest gun a ship then carried 
was called a demy cannon; but then this weapon 
weighed 400 lbs., its bore was 6f ins., it threw a shot 
weighing 30 lbs., could send its missile 1700 paces, and 
was loaded with 18 lbs. of powder. Next was the cannon 
petro, that carried a 24 lb. shot ; the culverin, a 17 lb. 
shot ; the basilisk, a 15 lb. shot, and so on, down to the 



SOO 8F ANISE ARMADA. 

little Berpentine and rabenet, which threw respectively 
shots weighing three-quarters of a pound and half a 
pound. Here, then, were broadside armaments capable 
almost of equalling the thunders of Trafalgar and of 
rivalling the execution done by the gunners of Nelson. 
But they fought in those days with other destructive 
engines as well; they discharged flaming arrows of 
wildfire ; they boarded with pikes blazing with the 
same inextinguishable stuflF. From the ship's sides, or 
from her enormous tops, they flung brass balls and 
earthen pots filled with powder and bullets stuck in 
pitch, which made an incredible slaughter when hurled 
amongst the surging crowd of combatants. They sus- 
pended barrels of powder at their yard-arms, ready to 
let fall upon the enemy's deck as the ship rubbed sides 
together, where they burst as though the powder-room 
had blown up, scattering death right and left, and con- 
founding and terrifying the seamen with the deafening 
blasts of the explosion. They also flung contrivances 
filled with a chemical composition that, as it burnt, 
threw out thick coils of black smoke of a stench so 
nauseating, of a character so poisonous that, in order 
to breathe, men were obliged to fly from their quarters. 
For as wild a picture of marine conflict as the imagi- 
nation could desire, it might not be necessary to look 
outside that period. The great galleons of the Spaniard 
bristled with ordnance, they floated like vast castles 
upon the sea, and as we know from the annals of this 
Armada, from the voyage of Anson, from the experiences 
of English freebooters, they were almost inaccessible 
by boarders. Their tops were crowded by men who 
maintained an incessant fire with their matchlocks upon 
the enemy's decks; others discharged flaming arrows 
at the sails and hull of the opposing craft. An army 



SPANISH ARMADA. 801 

of soldiers secreted in close quarters, showed their heads 
only after a broadside to flash back their response to 
the challenge. To the quarter-deck something of the 
colour of the medisBval field of battle was communicated 
by the figures of the generals, the admirals, the com- 
manders, and oflScers in suits of armour. There was 
stateliness, indeed, in the castellated fabrics, with their 
great poop lanthoms, stern windows, the gilded devices 
on the counter sparkling to the sunlight ; in the milk- 
white softness of the huge spread of canvas enriched by 
steamers whose forked ends in calm fluttered the whole 
length of the masthead to the deck ; in the gleam of 
accoutrements, the radiant hues of romantic apparel, 
the rich and lustrous symbolism of the figure-head ; in 
the garnishing of the broad decks by the colours of the 
varied attire of the slave, the soldier, the mariner, the 
monk, and the commander. But the shipboard discipline 
of the Spaniard was but an extension of the tactics of 
the battlefield. The prejudices of the tented plain were 
always strong for him. He went to sea as a soldier in a 
castle, and the English could not but ridicule a marine 
theory that reduced the Jacks of the ship to a condition 
of subordinacy that rendered them even of less worth in 
the eyes of the commanders than the slaves who tugged 
at the long sweeps of the galleys. Our sailors laughed, 
too, at qualities of superstition which might have crippled 
the resolution of a forecastle of landsmen even. The 
Spaniard's watchwords were the saints. He was allowed 
but six meals of flesh in a year. The slaves who helped 
him to fight were fed on oil, on rice, and on beans. 
These, surely, were not the sort of folks to conquer 
England, that the Duke of Parma might take the place 
of noble Queen Bess ! 

On the arrival of Fleming, as we have seen, with 

20 



802 SPANISH ARMADA. 

news of the mighty Spanish armament close in sound- 
ings and heading direot for the English coast, the Lord 
High Admiral had, with incredible activity, himself 
working with his own hands far into the night, got 
ready six ships, which, by noon next day, had been 
reinforced to the number of thirty. They lay quiet, 
waiting for the Spaniard to pass away to leeward. It 
blew a pleasant breeze of wind from a little to the 
southward of west, and the Armada swept softly, cloud- 
like over the pale blue of the Channel waters as though 
it were the magnified reflection in that rippling mirror 
of the new moon hanging directly overhead. The 
galleons, carracks, and pollacres which formed the 
northern horn of the seven-mile semicircle had doubt- 
less a good view of the thirty English craft, many of 
them very little ships, with their topsails aback, or 
their anchors, maybe, down, resting quietly within the 
yawn of the points which form Plymouth Sound ; and 
their hardy sailors, soldiers, and slaves might well 
flatter themselves with the assurance that, if yonder toys 
represented the naval strength of England, the realm 
might already be regarded as vanquished and re- 
Catholicized. They were not to know, however, that 
amongst the most ardent of the men who were prepared 
dearly to sell their lives for the old country were those 
same Homan Catholics on whose sympathy and support 
the Spanish monarch and the Duke of Parma largely 
counted. It is true that the account in Purchas says, 
" The principal recusants (lest they should stir up any 
tumult in the time of the Spanish invasion) were sent 
to remain at certain convenient places, as, namely, in 
the Isle of Ely and at Wisbeach." But we also have 
it on high contemporary authority, " that even the 
Papists whom the Spaniards expected to have found 



SPANISH ARMADA. 803 

in arms were glad to wipe away the aspersions which 
had been thrown upon them, by serving as common 
soldiers.** The story of the first assault is vague. 
Howard waited until t^e Armada had travelled a little 
space up Channel, and then his thirty ships braced up, 
having now the weather- guage of the enemy, and started 
for him. The encounter was brisk, many broadsides 
were exchanged, but there does not appear to have been 
anything decisive in this action. Next day, July 21, 
proved more mischievous for the Don. The English 
fleet was still further strengthened by arrival of ships, 
and approached within musket-shot of the enemy. Lord 
Charles Howard singling out and hotly engaging the 
Spanish Vice-Admiral. It needed but a very little 
manoeuvring to show that whilst the advantage of 
strength of fabric and weight of broadside metal was 
altogether with the Spaniards, seamanship and nimble- 
ness of heels were the happy possessions of the English. 
So high did the Spanish galleons float out of water 
that their people found it impossible to depress their 
guns so as to bring them to bear upon the decks and 
hulls of the English ships. Their shots flew high, 
sweeping betwixt the masts above the topsail yards. 
Indeed, it was more like a cutting-out job than an 
action fought broadside to broadside. One's triumph 
in the conflict is mingled with a sentiment of pity. 
They had some stout sea-captains in that Armada ; but 
think of the confrontment of Castilian marine prowess 
with such iron hearts as Drake, as Frobisher, as 
Hawkins, as Fenton ; men whose veins ran with salt 
water, the most exquisite seamen of their time, of 
an intrepidity that is almost phenomenal, with the 
animation of real scorn for the Spaniard as an ocean 
foeman tingling in every fibre of their tough and oak- 



SOi SPANISH ABMADJL 

like natures ! Think, too, of the comparative helpless* 
ness of a vast body of soldiers crowded betwixt the 
bulwarks of the mountainoas timber castles, perhaps 
twice as long as they were broad, with a mere handfal 
of seamen to work the ship — men whose services were 
so little valned that, as Monson tells us, they would 
be kept aloft furling and making sail, exposed to the 
hot sharp-shooting of the foe until, as a matter of fact, 
ere the engagement had scarcely made fair progress, 
two-thirds of the seamen lay dead on the deck or were 
floating mangled corpses alongside! There was rage, 
there was burning patriotism, there was the old unbend- 
ing resolution to conquer amongst the English ; but 
there must have been something of disdain too. The 
leviathan tubs scarce answering their helm, halliards 
shot through, and hardly a seaman surviving to tell the 
soldiers what to do; the priests confessing the dying 
and exhorting the living, the black visages of the slaves 
whose hearts were assuredly not with their masters, 
the ducking of heads past the bulwark line to every 
broadside in the true old Spanish fashion — no! those 
Jacks of the Elizabethan day could not, amidst the 
stress and heat and uproar of the battle, view such an 
enemy as the Don, wallowing in his cliff-high castle, 
without contempt of him as a sailor faUing cool upon 
their wrath, though scorn might give a new nerve 
to the swing of the flaming pike, and a deadlier pre- 
cision to the aim of the cannon-petro. 

The Spaniards speedily saw how it was. The 
nimbleness of the English craft was like the waltz of 
the running surge around their ponderous waggons; 
there was nothing for it but to shorten sail and come 
together in a body and defy the English with that half- 
moon front, which might have been a very excellent 



SPANISH ARMADA. 805 

taotiCi had it proved so. One of their great galle- 
asses was so furiously hammered that the signal flew 
for as many of the fleet as could approach to gather 
round and save her ; with the result that Don Pedro de 
Valdez's enormous galleon fell foul of another ship, 
carried away her foremast, and dropped to leeward out 
of the battle. Howard, spying this ship, concluded that 
she was abandoned, though in reality she was full of 
men all in hiding, no doubt, and sailed past her with 
the design of keeping the rest of the Spanish fleet in 
view all night; but next day, being the 22nd, Sir 
Francis Drake fell in with her. He sent his pinnace 
and discovered that the great Pedro de Valdez himself 
was on board, along with a company of four hundred and 
fifty people, many of them noblemen. Drake was an 
old hand with the Don, and ordered Valdez to yield. 
The Spaniard was for making terms, upon which Drake 
informed him that he had no leisure now for ceremonies 
of any kind, that if he yielded himself he would receive 
friendly treatment, but that, "If he had resolved to die 
in fight, he should prove Drake to be no dastard.** The 
mere utterance of Drake's name acted magically — 
indeed, Yaldez and his companions had not known until 
now who was the Englishman that had hailed them. 
The memory of Cadiz was fresh, Drake's West Indian 
reputation, too, was equally green. Without an instant's 
hesitation Yaldez struck, and went on board Drake's 
ship with his retinue of fifty noblemen and gentlemen. 
How Yaldez kissed Drake's hand, how he protested his 
good fortune in having fallen into the power of one who 
was as famous for his gentleness to the vanquished as 
for his courage and expertness in battle, how Sir Francis 
embraced him, handsomely entertained him at his own 
table, and comfortably lodged him in his private cabin 



SOG SPANISH ASMADA. 

is known to all. On that same day a Spanish ship, 
commanded by the vice-admiral of the whole fleet, was 
burnt down to her powder-room without exploding, 
though her people were miserably scorched. Needless 
to say she was promptly taken in tow by the English. 

It is strange to notice how little this mighty conflict 
scatters. One might imagine that such a mass of 
shipping as is here assembled would have covered nearly 
the whole range of the English Channel with contending 
craft in twos and threes ; but all the while the Spaniards 
seemed to keep together in a lump, with the English 
ordnance flashing through their closed ranks, and 
brilliantly handled vessels, big and little, flying English 
colours, snapping at their heels like wolves, and tearing 
first one and then another down. The bitterest, the 
most furious conflict of all, was on the 23rd, when 
the Lord Howard found himself in the thick of the 
enemy, almost abandoned, though there was no inter- 
mission in the roar of his broadsides. Presently falling 
within hail of Captain Fenner, who was in command 
of the Siviftsure, he cried out, " Oh, George, what doest 
thou ? Wilt thou now frustrate my hope and opinion 
conceived of thee? Wilt thou forsake me now?" on 
which, says the old account, Fenner *' approached forth- 
with, encountered the enemy, and did the part of a 
most valiant captain." In this action a large Venetian 
ship and several small vessels were captured by the 
English. Meanwhile almost every hour of the day was 
bringing fresh vessels to the rescue from English ports. 
By the time the fleets had arrived abreast of Dover the 
English ships amounted some say to one hundred and 
thirty, though so small was the bulk of them that, with 
the exception of three and twenty belonging to the 
Queen, not one but seemed ridiculously disproportioned 
for the conflict she had been fitted out to undertake. 



SPANISH ABMADA. 907 

There must have been much ungodly scoffing amongst 
the English when, the great running battle being over 
and all sorts of news filtering into this country drop 
by drop, it came to be known that the Duke of 
Parma, not questioning but that he should be crowned 
King of England by Cardinal Allan, had travelled 
several leagues that he might make some preliminary 
"bowes," according to Hackluyt, and **vows," accord- 
ing to Purchas, '* unto Saint Mary of Hall in Henault 
(whom he went to visite for his blinde devotions sake)," 
and how, this duty being discharged, he had journeyed 
to Dunkirk simply to learn, not only out of the mouths 
of cannon roaring seaward, but from the crowds in the 
streets of the town, that the Spaniards were being slowly, 
but surely, knocked to pieces. We were fighting the 
Dutch very hotly indeed in these same waters not long 
afterwards, but they were serving us astonishingly well 
now. Lord Henry Seymour, cruising on the coast of 
Flanders, was nobly supported by Count Nassau. The 
business of checkmating the Duke of Parma was 
entrusted to the stm*dy broad-beamed Hans Butter- 
boxes, as Charles U. loved to call the Dutch, and 
with the characteristic thoroughness of that plodding 
and much-to-be-admired people was that obligation ful- 
filled. In truth, the duke's people were so honestly 
terrified by the sight of the Holland and Zealand ships 
that day and night the business of desertion pro- 
ceeded as regularly as the ebb of the tide. The spec- 
tacle of the fiat-bottomed boats was too much for the 
disheartened creatures. How on earth were they to 
break through those floating batteries, lying yonder 
under the shadow of the horizontal tri-colour in fabrics 
as fiat as spoons, and as ungovernable as a barge adrift 
on a running river ? So they wisely took to their heels, 



308 8PANI83 ABMADA. 

and we hear n^ more of them. Meanwhile, the EngKsh 
continued to pound the Spaniard with their great 
ordnance and flaming missiles. The Dons retorted 
handsomely, but their shots flew so high that our 
Jacks might have imagined they were bombarding the 
heavens. It was a dead calm on the 24th ; the tower- 
ing vessels lay lifeless, slewing slowly to every compass 
point with the fingering of the tide, and the reflection of 
their shining canvas lay under each bristling hull in a 
waving sheet of silver. But the enemy had four great 
galleasses, with an army of slaves for the multitu- 
dinous oars of each of them, and these craft, heavily 
armed, and crowded with fighting men, made for the 
Queen's ships, but without the least result, saving that 
they, on their part, were most cruelly mauled by the 
chain-shot our demi-cannon hurled at them. Day 
after day was this great fight waged, slowly rolling up 
Channel, and there was no point of British coast from 
Bolt Head to Dungeness that did not echo the thunder 
of the contending fleets. To follow the conflict in its 
close details would demand such space as cannot be 
afforded here. There was a terrible fight on the 25th, 
the ships being abreast of the Isle of Wight, when the 
Lyon (Captain Lord Thomas Howard), the Elizabeth 
Jonas (Captain Sir Eobert Southwell), the Bear (Captain 
Lord Sheffield), the Victory (Captain Barker), and the 
galleon Leicester (Captain George Fenner) sheared 
desperately into the very heart of the Spanish fleet, 
engaging the enormous carracks within a hundred 
yards, firing so rapidly that their broadsides were like 
volcanic upheavals, flame after flame with scarce an 
intermission, until the tormented Spaniards tailed on 
to their topsail halliards to compact their timber- 
castles into an impenetrable front. It was on this 



SPANISH AHMADA. 309 

occasion that Master John Hawkins and honest Captain 
Frobisher were with others rewarded by the Lord 
High Admiral with the order of knighthood. That 
same day the false ironical rumour spread like wildfire 
from sea to land that the Spaniards had conquered 
England! On the 27th the Spaniards at sunset had 
hauled into Calais Boads and let go their anchors, 
intending presently to push on for Dunkirk, where — for 
they were still buoyed up by vain hopes — they believed 
the forces of the Duke of Parma would join them. It 
was now that Lord Henry Seymour united his little 
fleet with that of the Lord High Admiral ; and it was 
on this day that the noble Howard was directed by 
letters from her Majesty the Queen to drive the Spanish 
fleet from Calais. The Sovereign knew her sailors, and 
was fearless in the instructions she gave them. There- 
upon, the next day being Sunday — that is to say, at two 
o'clock on Sunday morning — the night being dark, and 
an inshore wind blowing dead upon the Spanish fleet 
along with a strong wash of tide, the Lord Admiral of 
England let slip some fire-ships in charge of two bold 
captains, Young and Prowse. They drove accurately 
into the thick of the Don, blazing wildly, vomiting shot 
the while from heavy cannon which had been loaded 
to the muzzles. It is the wildest of all the scenes of 
this mighty show : sky and sea lighted up for leagues 
by the high and writhing flames of the fire-ships, with 
the yellow-tinctured phantasms of near and distant 
Spanish galleons hurriedly and confusedly getting under 
way, cutting their hemp cables, toiling at brace and 
halliard, with the wild and agitated shouts and cries 
of the armies of soldiers, mariners, slaves, and priests 
rolling shore^ards upon the damp night wind, with a 
sound as of sullen moaning of breakers. 



310 SPANISH ABMAD± 

Bat the end was not yet, though near at hand. A great 
galleas stranded, and the English made for her, but were 
driven from then: prey by the heavy ordnance of the 
Calais batteries. There was another desperate fight on 
the 29th, off Gravelines, and it is impossible to follow 
even three hundred years later the superb seamanship of 
the English on this occasion without something of those 
emotions of triumph and pride which must have swelled 
the hearts of the contemporaries of Drake and Fro- 
bisher. Three great Spanish ships were sunk, two 
big Portuguese galleons abandoned; and vast mischief 
in other ways done to the Don. And now still on 
this same 29th we witness the Spaniards running, with 
the English in full pursuit. The cloths they spread 
were warrant enough that their stomach was gone, 
and that they had had enough. Lord Henry Sey- 
mour with his squadron clung to the coast of Flanders 
to hold the Duke of Parma idle, whilst Lord Charles 
Howard pursued the Spaniards into the North Sea, 
to as high as 57 degrees of latitude. He then quietly 
shifted his helm for home, making little doubt that 
the Norwegian and Hebridean surge, with the weather 
of Cape Wrath and the bewildering navigation of 
the islands round about, would effectually complete 
the work he and his hearts of oak had begun. No 
schoolboy but knows what follows : how there came on 
to blow a succession of heavy gales, which drove up- 
wards of thirty ships ashore on the Irish coast, with 
the loss of many thousands of men ; how of all that 
Invincible Armada, twenty-five vessels only, with the 
Duke of Medina- Sidonia aboard one of them, yet alive to 
relate the incredible tale of disaster, succeeded in making 
the Bay of Biscay; how many large ships were lost 
upon the Western Isles and upon the coast of Argyleshire. 



SPANISH ARMADA. Sll 

The story is old indeed, but the occurrence of its 
anniversary renders even an insufficient reference to it 
a justifiable expression of patriotic pride. It is a 
marine pageant fitly, nobly, gloriously closed by that 
quaint old spectacle of queenly, national, and civic 
thanksgiving, to the sight of which we are admitted by 
the grace and diligence of the old chroniclers. '' Like- 
wise the Queenes Maiesty herself, imitating the ancient 
Bomans, rode into London in triumph, in regard of her 
own and her subjects glorious deliverance. For being 
attended upon very solemnly by all the principal estates 
and officers of her Bealme, she was carried thorow her 
said Gitie of London in a triumphant chariot, and in 
robes of triumph, and from her Palace into the Gathe- 
drall Ghurch of Saint Paul, out of which the ensigns 
and colours of the vanquished Spaniards hung dis- 
played. And all the Gitizens of London in their 
Liveries stood on either side of the streets, by their 
seurall Gompanies, with their Ensigns and Banners; 
and the streets were hanged on both sides with blew 
cloath, which, together with the foresaid Banners, 
yielded a very stately and gallant prospect. Her 
Maiesty being entered into the church, together with 
her Glergy and Nobles, gave thanks unto God, and 
caused a publike Sermon to be preached before her at 
Pauls Grosse ; wherein none other argument was 
handled, but that praise, honour, and glory might be 
rendered unto God; and that God's name might be 
extolled by thanksgiving. And with her own Pryncely 
voyce she most Ghristianly exhorted the people to do 
the same : whereupon the people with a loud accla- 
mation wished her a most long and happy life, to the 
confusion of her foes." 



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